Communicating ‘science for development’ – Getting scientists, communicators and policy makers on board

Author: Ramasamy Venugopal – International Astronomical Union’s Office of Astronomy for Development, Cape Town, South Africa

Our modern, technological world owes much to science research and investment. But in the recent past, science has alienated itself from the public and public support for science is dwindling in several countries. The relevance of pure science research is being increasingly questioned. Curiosity about the natural world is no longer an accepted justification for science investments.

Recently, a handful of organizations from various disciplines (Physics for Development, Data for development, Astronomy for Development) have taken the lead on using and shaping scientific knowledge and expertise to contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Using science to directly impact on the world’s biggest challenges could both bolster the public view of science and scientists as well as bring science closer to the people.

Since 2011, our team at the Office of Astronomy for Development has been operating in the above-mentioned space, coordinating projects that use astronomy to benefit society. Anecdotally, we have encountered public appreciation but also confusion (Astronomy FOR development is frequently confused with development of the field of Astronomy). Communicating ‘Astronomy for development’ also requires a balance between messages on its applications, skills, research etc. All fields of science can contribute to the SDGs. Thus, science communicators and their respective fields stand to benefit from appropriating the science for development angle. Adopting such a narrative and making it mainstream, in turn, influences and will be influenced by policy makers and the scientists.

I would like to discuss the challenges, risks and rewards of pushing the idea of science for development. How does it influence policy, research and perceptions of science? Communicating science for development also requires an understanding of development and requires interactions and collaborations with associated fields such as economics, behavioural sciences, human rights, health etc. thus potentially broadening the scope of science communication.

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

Presentation type: Idea in progress
Theme: Society
Area of interest: Influencing policies through science communication