Talking about reflexivity

Author: Gwendolyn Blue – University of Calgary, Canada

Social scientists have long recognized that reflexivity – the examination and adjustment of values, assumptions and beliefs in the face of new information and perspectives – is an important aspect of science communication.

Talking about reflexivity, however, is not easy.

From the outset, the term can be off putting as it gives the impression of ‘social science jargon.’

More substantially, the concept disrupts and challenges idealized notions of science as universal, value-free, objective and certain. At the core of reflexivity is an awareness of the contingency and limits of knowledge, of the inherent social nature of scientific investigation, and of the centrality of uncertainty and ignorance in all intellectual pursuits. Some scientists and science advocates can construe such talk as part of an ‘anti-science movement’ of postmodern scholars whose ‘frivolous’ knowledge and unnecessary verbiage threatens to undermine science.

This presentation invites discussion about advantages and challenges of promoting reflexivity in science communication. Drawing on published literature and personal experience with public engagement with climate change and genomic science, I will discuss what works and, importantly, what does not work in efforts to bring theories of reflexivity into actual instances of science communication.

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

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Science
Area of interest: Applying science communication research to practice