Author: Toss Gascoigne – Australian National University, Australia


  • Margaret Kaseje – Professor & Director of Research and Programmes, Tropical Institute of Community Health and Development, Kenya
  • Joan Leach – Australian National University
  • Bernard Schiele – UQAM, Canada

The book collects accounts of how modern science communication has developed in 39 countries. Eleven rank outside the top hundred in per capita wealth, and five are Muslim-majority countries. Five are from Africa, seven from the Americas, 11 from Asia and the rest from Europe and Australasia. We have 39 reports from 115 authors.

Three principles emerge from these stories.

The first is that community knowledge is a powerful force. In rural Kenya, the number of babies delivered by unskilled people led to high mortality. Local science communication practices provided a solution. A baraza (community discussion) integrated the health problem with social solutions, and trained local motorcycle riders to transport mothers to hospitals. The baraza used role-plays to depict the arrival of a mother to a health facility, reactions from the health providers, eventual safe delivery of the baby, and mother and baby riding back home.

A second principle is how science communication can enhance the integration of science with other beliefs. Science and religion, for example, are not always at odds. The Malaysian chapter describes how Muslim concepts of halal (permitted) and haram (forbidden) determine the acceptability of biotechnology according to the principles of Islamic law. Does science pose any threat to the five purposes of maslahah (public interest): religion, life and health, progeny, intellect and property?

The third is an approach to pursuing and debating science for the public good. Science communication has made science more accessible, and public opinions and responses more likely to be sought. The “third mission”, an established principle across Europe, is an expectation that researchers will contribute to the growth, welfare and development of society.

Discussants: Toss Gascoigne (editor), Bernard Schiele (analyst), Margaret Kaseje (author) and Joan Leach (Editorial Board).

Chair Michelle Riedlinger (Editorial Board and chapter author).

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Roundtable discussion
Theme: Transformation

Author: Toss Gascoigne – Australian National University, Australia

Peter Broks – Rhine-Waal University
Massimiano Bucchi – Università di Trento
Michelle Riedlinger – University of the Fraser Valley
Maarten van de Sanden – Delft University of Technology

In November this year, 22 international experts participated in an intensive 3-day conference at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Centre at Bellagio, Italy. After a period of rapid expansion, science communication has arrived at something of a crossroads. Where to next? The aim of the conference was to provide a fresh focus.

How can researchers and practitioners work more closely and effectively, with a greater appreciation for the problems that both face?

Two weeks earlier, Massimiano Bucchi had convened a meeting in Trento with a similarly-ambitious agenda. He invited leading scholars to imagine and reflect upon the future scenarios of Science in Society, discussing the main trends and challenges for research, publishing, science communication and public engagement.

This roundtable will hear a lively conversation from 4 people involved in the meetings. Did they discover solutions? What problems were identified?

Science communicators deal with the practice and the theory of engaging governments, decision-makers and various publics in using, applying and generating scientific knowledge.

How can the various publics be engaged? What are the most effective ways to get them interested and involved in the new ideas?

There is also a growing challenge of public resistance to experts and their advice. We live in a world where ‘alternative facts’ and confirmation bias may determine the direction of public discourse and policy actions.

Discussions of post-truth and quality of science communication are often, more or less explicitly, coupled with speculations about declining trust in science per se, mistrust of scientists and their expertise, and even anti-science attitudes.

How then should science communicators act? What strategies should they employ to encourage rational consideration of significant issues, leading to appropriate policy responses?

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Roundtable discussion
Theme: Society
Area of interest: Applying science communication research to practice

Author: Toss Gascoigne – Australian National University, Australia

Craig Cormick
Phil Dooley
Jenni Metcalfe – Australian National University

The proposal is for a dramatic presentation centred on CP Snow’s Two Cultures.

On May 7 1959, Snow delivered the Rede Lecture at Cambridge University. Snow said that society was divided in two parts, those educated in the arts and humanities, and those from science and technology. The two sides could not communicate and this had serious implications for society.

The proposal for Dunedin is a theatrical examination of this controversy. Is there a wall between the two cultures? Can people talk productively across this barrier, or is it the source of confusion, uncertainty and poor policy? Is science communication an attempt to patch over these difficulties, and can it succeed?

The play delighted the audience when it premiered at the PCST Conference in Istanbul. Now it has been revised and extended, with new character development and songs added, so it becomes Two Cultures: the Musical!

Presentation type: Perfomance
Theme: Society
Area of interest: Building a theoretical basis for science communication