Learning from science communication's past: a historically informed approach to reciprocity, citizenship & diversity in a social contract for science

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Sch of Philosophy

Abstract

This project will explore how approaches from the history of science, and especially of the history of its communication, can benefit and feed into to a freshly enhanced and more inclusive approach to science communication. By drawing upon past lessons concerning effective and ineffective modes of science communication, this project will explore more creative, open-ended ways of engaging with communities beyond those typically reached by such initiatives, with an emphasis on routes to accomplishing effective two-way reciprocal interactions between science and society.
It will bring together academics and practitioners from a range of sectors to tackle questions about the cultural, philosophical and historical context of the sciences and science communication both with diverse audiences and communities in the UK and to link this to the broader global cultural context of these communities. This will include those working in history and philosophy of science, science communication, community cohesion, and media professionals. Alongside this professional networking activity, the teams will undertake focus group work with both UK and international groups of young people to gauge perceptions around community identity, including faith identities, in relation to recent scientific controversies, ongoing debates about perceived clashes between science and other cultural perspectives
At its core, this project will ask: how can science communication learn from its past in order to be able to engage more sensitively and effectively with diverse communities that have hitherto barely been engaged by it, or indeed who have felt alienated from it? Studying the past development of scientific and science communication discourses, provide us with the opportunity for a combined approach across the humanities and sciences to tackle current and future controversies in public perceptions of such key areas as climate change, epigenetics and genomics, evolutionary theory, neurosciences and Artificial Intelligence, among others.

In recent years in the UK, one particularly problematic feature of the relationship between 'science' and the world views of distinct communities, including faith communities, is the growing populist conception that science is inevitably atheistic. Similarly, in the international context, 'Western science' is sometimes categorized by multicultural critics at the extreme end of the spectrum as 'Christian Science' or in the case of the UK as 'imperialistic' in approach, methodology or worldview by those from diasporic heritages. What we can see here is clearly a congruence between the historical communication of science and the geographical routes by which key ideas in science have been disseminated. One key example is 'Darwinism': both historically and in a global context, the promotion and reception of this has been filtered through a range of different cultural, ideological and political lenses. This has had a major, and often not productive effect on the perception of evolutionary science and on related scientific research today. Thus the project looks in detail at how the past of science communication has lessons for enhanced reciprocal dialogue to create a new social contract between scientists and other audiences within UK culture.

To address these concerns, the project will develop a network based on public focus group work with relevant 'hard-to-reach' community groups, drawing upon a UK based two-three day open innovation workshop with international and UK partners and participants. The overall result will be a comprehensive resport with recommendations on:
1. Potential future multidisciplinary research themes or draft project proposals
2. Potential future knowledge transfer project recommendations or proposals with academics, policy influencers, media professionals and
practitioners
3. Potential pathways to impact for any future project

Planned Impact

The following groups are expected to benefit in the short or medium term from this exploratory research project:

i) Media professionals: radio, broadcasting, print
They will learn new historically sensitive and more inclusive approaches with regard to presenting science to the public.

ii) Professional science communicators
They too will learn new historically sensitive techniques and more inclusive strategies in presenting science to the public.

iii) Faith communities and leaders
They will see a new role in mediating the complexities of the public debate over the forms and purposes of science communication.

iv) Prospective international students for science in UK H.E.
They will learn how there are new more inclusive ways of understanding the role of diverse globally contributions to science.

vii) Scientists
They will see how the future developmentof science depends crucially on learning lessons from the past and in properly engaging a broad range of national cultures in both formulating and implementing their research agendas.

Publications


10 25 50
 
Description This project was set up to explore how approaches from the history of science (especially the history of its communication) might in future benefit and feed into a freshly enhanced, more inclusive approach to science communication. By exploring past lessons concerning effective and ineffective modes of science communication, this project explored more creative, open-ended ways of engaging with communities beyond those typically reached by such initiatives, with emphasis on routes to accomplishing effective two-way reciprocal interactions between 'science' and 'society'.
The key outcome of the project's development activities was the recognition that there are a number of intersecting areas of research across humanities, arts, science communication, social sciences and science education. Researchers in these areas can beneficially be brought together in order to work effectively and closely with colleagues in the sciences. Together they could create more effective models and modes of engaging with marginalised or 'hard to reach' audiences for science communication and policy engagement initiatives, in the UK and internationally. The network recognises the need to engage with such potential audiences and thus seeks to develop opportunities to work in a clustered cross-disciplinary initiative to produce appropriate applied/policy research outputs in partnership with a range of non-HEI organisations.
Exploitation Route Yes if other organisations pursue the approach that we recommended of understanding science communication through its past history
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
URL http://www.sciculture.ac.uk/project/learning-from-science-communications-past/
 
Description The AHRC used the results in its formulation of the second stage of the Science in Culture theme
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy
Impact Types Cultural
 
Description Learning from Science Communication's Past: A historically informed approach to reciprocity, citizenship and diversity in a new social contract for science 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This project was set up to explore how approaches from the history of science (especially the history of its communication) might in future benefit and feed into a freshly enhanced, more inclusive approach to science communication. By exploring past lessons concerning effective and ineffective modes of science communication, this project explored more creative, open-ended ways of engaging with communities beyond those typically reached by such initiatives, with emphasis on routes to accomplishing effective two-way reciprocal interactions between 'science' and 'society'.

The key outcome to report to the AHRC was that there are a number of intersecting areas of research across humanities, arts, science communication, social sciences and science education. Researchers in these areas can beneficially be brought together to w
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012