Transforming Science Communication: New models enacted by Science Ceilidh on the Isle of Lewis

Transforming Science Communication: New models enacted by Science Ceilidh on the Isle of Lewis

Author: Erica Mason – Science Ceilidh, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom


  • Lewis Hou – Science Ceilidh, United Kingdom

How can interdisciplinary research help transform science communication practice, leading to more culturally meaningful encounters where communities can engage with global research on their own terms?

Using a case study of Science Ceilidh, a public engagement and cultural arts “intermediary” organisation in Scotland and their activities around biology, health and well-being on the Isle of Lewis, this research identifies existing types of science communication and proposes a new one: science communication that aims to create new knowledge.

By engaging Science and Technology Studies frameworks to deconstruct the forms, structures, narratives and power dynamics in science communication encounters, science communication is described as a form of cross-cultural communication between distinct groups whose institutions, norms, and values are socially shaped. The resulting understanding transforms science-society relations, implies expanded participation in research and calls for a new framework for engagement.

These new encounters are a form of ‘inventive problem making’, where what is known about the natural world is constructed through the encounter, which is initiated and facilitated by any actor. These encounters change the boundaries of disciplinary authority, preserve conflicts and happen before research is considered “complete”.

Science Ceilidh is conceived as a model for community empowerment or cultural democracy, which can explore the incentives participants have for engaging with research and smooth the separation between the institutions and “everyone else”. This positions communities as partners in the research process, neither the subject of research or the object of information delivery. The outcomes are unique and subjective to the groups that construct them. Participants in public engagement encounters must be reflexive, creative and willing- to both change and be changed- by a subjective process that produces new outcomes. We propose that only when this occurs can new kinds of public engagement be enacted, and underrepresented communities engage in global research.

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Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Transformation