Heroes in science: Personal narratives and self-identities

Heroes in science: Personal narratives and self-identities

Author: Bobby Cerini – Australian Government & The Australian National University, Australia

This presentation presents results of PhD research into science heroes as communicators of influence, exploring the life histories of a subset of those nominated as science heroes to explore narratives of identity and influence on career pathways and life-long engagement with science. It will present results relating to individuals’ experiences of success and of communication and the significant issues, ideas and outcomes that arise from those experiences.

In-depth interviews were conducted with 100 individuals in Australia, the United Kingdom and North America, including 7 for the purposes of communication context. The questions asked about many aspects of participant life experiences, including early interests and pathways in science, key motivators and influencers including ‘inspirational others’, experiences of communicating with others in a professional context, including interactions with peers, public audiences and the media, and individual communication attitudes and approaches.

Based on analysis of this data, the thesis identifies the communication characteristics and attributes of science heroes and explores the communication practices that contribute to their relative success. Evidence is presented for the power of narrative communication techniques and the use of heroic archetypes in projecting stories of success. Evidence is also presented for the presence of powerful norms and counter-norms in science communication.

The study builds on and contributes to work exploring the nature of influence in science career pathways, providing insight into the influences of contemporary science heroes and significant factors affecting science engagement and achievement. Additionally, the thesis extends the concept of normative practices and processes within science, making a case to include communication norms and counter-norms in the understanding of contemporary science.

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

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Stories
Area of interest: Building a theoretical basis for science communication