Science Communicators’ Conference

Kristin: I’ve been attending the Science Communicators Conference in London this week. Or perhaps that should  be ‘attending’ as all I’ve really been doing is following and adding to the tweet stream #scc2010.

I’ve enjoyed the discussions and also enjoyed comparing the conference with my recollection of what was discussed at the Australian Science Communicators Conference in Canberra in February 2010. A few of the common themes are:

  • Climate Change: At #asc2010, people spoke about climate change fatigue and that communicating the science wasn’t enough to change behaviour. @alicebell’s tweet at #scc2010 implies the need for a vision beyond climate catastrophe, a theme we’ve heard repeated a lot and one of the reasons behind the book Opportunities Beyond Carbon.
  • New/Social Media: At #asc2010, the validity of science information on blogs was questioned, and a reduction of science in the media seen as regrettable. At #scc2010, science in the media seems relatively healthy, yet the roles of blogs and Twitter continue to be questioned, as does the issue of which are trusted sources. It seems that for those of us engaging in new/social media, the debate about the medium is actually less important than ensuring communities have the capability and skills to question and assess valid information about science, regardless of where it comes from.
  • Dialogue or Engagement or PR: What is science communication and engagement? Are we explaining science and research? Do we seek to understand people’s views? Or are we looking for the next generation of scientists and engineers? What we do, how we do it, why we do it and it is effective in terms of dialogue processes are interesting questions and one I found fascinating given we perceive the UK to have conducted more upstream engagement then in Australia. Worth thinking through further.
  • Arts/Science: Apparently at #scc2010 Tim Smits from The Eden project called for more story and more romance in communicating science, as well as noting that both art and science stem from our desire to observe the world. At #asc2010, the RiAus, ANAT and others talked about the interplay with arts and science in revealing new research paths.

In summary, the Twitter discussion from #scc2010 reflects many of the issues that were raised at #asc2010, albeit with different emphases and experiences being shared. The balance between sharing in-house and broadcasting via Twitter is a tricky one with risks and benefits on both sides. I prefer the open model where possible and attending #scc2010 has been enjoyable and instructive. A big thank you to the people attending and tweeting for including me in the discussion.

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