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Conversation, Community, & Connections at the intersection of Science & the Web
Friday, February 1 • 2:30pm - 3:30pm
Opening Doors: Science Communication for Those that Don't Care/Don't Like Science

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Many (most) conventional forms of science communication (books, blogs, films, focused and/or beat-driven journalism) speak to self-selecting audiences. Several analyses have pointed to the growing “tribal” or partisan divide being a reliable predictor of acceptance of rejection of scientific findings on subjects like climate change, evolution and others. That’s part of the context that frames the question of how to reach beyond those who already know they’re interested in science. And then there’s this: over the last (n) years (where n is some length of time just slightly shorter than the speaker at the time has been doing whatever s/he does in science communication) there has been an enormous expansion in the ways science popularizers and audiences interact. From the impact of social media to the development radically local approaches like Story Collider and the science festival movement, experiments with form, venue, and approaches to the formation of audience and/or community have significantly broadened the opportunities for science and members of the public to encounter each other. Most important, a common thread among these newer genres and approaches has been framed the idea of science as an expression of culture, and not just a body of knowledge or of methods.

With this in mind, this session hopes to create a forum where we explore these developments more fully. Among facets of the issue to be discussed: we hope to raise and learn of examples where the best impact may be gained by deliberately not compartmentalizing definitions of science, but rather by reaching out through the exploration of all the nuances and different perspectives that science can offer us. From there we’ll go where the participants take the discussion, but some questions present in the moderators minds include thinking critically about the various ways the enterprise of science has been presented in the popular setting – how important is it to emphasize the usefulness of science; its historical significance, the creativity of its approach and the sheer awesomeness of its results, to name a few possibilities. At the same time, assuming participant interest, we can address questions of goals: what is it that popular science communication can (or should) strive to do?

David is currently focusing on a project that tries to address big questions, such as “What is science?” and “What does it mean to be scientifically literate?” at a level where younger children can contribute. Basically, something that gets all children, who even at an early age are shown to self identity with certain “choirs,” to value “questioning everything” but to also do this by using that thing we call the scientific method, the good and the bad. He hopes that this session, with its core audience of public science communicators, can add much needed insight to this intention.

Tom teaches and practices science communication. He hopes this discussion will offer some hints about how to do both better – and to reverse the conclusion that one might plausibly draw about the first quarter century of his working life: that his career is correlated with a net negative impact on the public engagement with science

- Why do some people not care about or even like science? How might one engage them?
- Do perceptions of science make science communication all the more challenging?
- What are some ways of talking or interacting with science that are most effective in reaching the “unconverted?”
- Do you find yourself always preaching to the choir?

avatar for David Ng

David Ng

Faculty Member, University of British Columbia
Molecular Geneticist who fancies himself a science literacy advocate. Happy as a faculty member at the University of British Columbia, with a soft spot for science humour and Chewbacca (though not necessarily at the same time). Looking after a science education lab (http://bioteach.ubc.ca... Read More →

Friday February 1, 2013 2:30pm - 3:30pm
Room 7b

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