Author: Brian Trench – Dublin City University, Ireland

The long version of the history of science communication reaches back to pre-industrial times. Through the 19th century, as the figure of ‘scientist’ takes shape, the role of populariser is integrated into it. In the development of this role for the scientist many of the considerations about how popularisation can be, or should be, done prefigure the concerns of our own time. More than that, awareness of this early history offers insights into present practices; the attention that early popularisers paid to speaking style may illuminate performance aspects of current science communication.

This paper examines what it meant to do popular science through the stories of four leading exponents spanning the 19th century: Humphry Davy (and his cousin Edmund Davy), Dionysius Lardner, John Tyndall and Agnes Mary Clerke. Through their own reflections and through newspaper reports and scientific society records we can view the growing publics for science and these popularisers’ understanding of their popular role.

In the early 19th century Humphry Davy was a celebrity lecturer whose public talks in Dublin in 1810-11 were the hottest tickets in town. Davy had a notably strong following among women, who were largely excluded from the practice of science.

From being a theme of fashionable social gatherings popular science evolves into a profitable practice. In the 1850s Lardner and in the 1870s Tyndall presented US lecture tours over several months and both they and Clerke had outstanding publishing records, with some of their books appearing in multiple sell-out editions. Clerke was a pioneer among women popularisers, though exclusively as a writer.

With regard to place, the four personalities are linked through being born in or active in Ireland. All four had a significant presence in London. Two of them broke into the US market. Tyndall was published in several European languages.

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

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Time

Author: Brian Trench – Dublin City University, Ireland

Birte Fähnrich – Zeppelin University, Germany
Maja Horst – University of Copenhagen

Suggestions and concerns about improving relations between research and practice in science communication are part of the normal diet at PCST conferences. These events have long been an important platform for forming and deepening such relations both at conceptual and community levels. Presentations on evaluation of science events, but also coffee-break exchanges between researchers and practitioners, are among the many ways in which research-practice relations are stimulated and developed.

Many individuals straddle these activities and this workshop is presented by three researcher-trainer-practitioners. As part of a wider, necessary exploration of the tools and methods to make research and practice accessible, relevant and open to each other, the workshop demonstrates and seeks to deepen a method for presenting theoretical insights in forms that make them memorable, and available to science communication practice.

In this workshop, we will present key principles and insights in short phrases, which can be used to stimulate discussion of guidelines to practice. We will distribute a sample of such phrases on cards to the workshop participants, interpret and order them and add to them in similar manner. Groups will be given ten prepared cards, will select five of these, and will add five of their own. In an iterative and interactive process, we will select and re-shuffle the cards to produce either a succinct summary of science communication wisdom, or a representation of many possible and contradictory approaches to science communication.

Sample cards: The public is never the problem; There is no such thing as a dumb question; Controversy can be a support to science communication; Coffee and chance are key components of scientific discovery; Science gains from knowing and acknowledging its limits; The public has a right to know how science really works; Scientific culture is more than a set of numbers.

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

Author: Brian Trench – Dublin City University, Ireland

Marta Entradas – SciComPT, Portugal
Per Hetland – University of Oslo, Norway
Fabien Medvecky – SCANZ
Padraig Murphy – Dublin City University
Sofia Otero – University of Chile

Science communication programmes, policies and practices have been spreading internationally for over two decades. A series of panels at PCST 2014 considered how this was happening, applying common criteria for reports from a dozen countries. Journal papers and special editions, and book chapters, have described the spread, more often stressing similarities than differences.

Less attention has been paid to the political, economic, cultural and geographical factors that affect how wide and how deep the development of science communication is in particular countries. Nation-states tend to set boundaries and structures for science communication, as they do for other institutional and cultural developments. One factor shaping science communication may be the size and status of a country, that is, whether it has a central or peripheral standing in a region or continent, or in the world.

This panel of science communicators and science communication scholars from smaller countries will discuss the disadvantages and possible advantages for these countries in adopting and promoting science communication for their needs.

Among the issues for consideration are, on the one hand: the strong influence of larger, more powerful neighbours, and the perceived need to follow their example; the requirement of smaller countries to “talk up” their scientific achievements; the pressure in smaller countries for communities to conform to the national agenda; relatively smaller funds for scientific research in general, and for science communication in particular (though with exceptions); less historical depth in scientific institutions. And, on the other hand: the relative ease of forming national networks and building inter-sectoral relations; relatively immediate access to power-holders and –influencers; greater agility and flexibility, allowing ‘turn moments’ in policy for science communication. The panelists will reflect on the experience of their countries with reference to these issues and to the political contexts which influence how they arise in those countries.

Presentation type: Roundtable discussion
Theme: Society
Area of interest: Comparing science communication across cultures