Communicating science in the real context of society
by Bernard Schiele, University of Quebec
The production of science knowledge is doubling every seven years. As it expands, science splinters into new and unimagined strands. No one can keep up.
How can any ordinary citizens play a meaningful part in discussions on their future, in the face of this explosion of knowledge? Is it any surprise the public daily grows more sceptical about the benefits of science? Public demands for evidence and reassurance grow more strident, but most of all the public wants time to adjust to a world threatening to career out of their control.
The new book by the PCST network, At the Human Scale (edited by Cheng Donhong, Jenni Metcalfe, Bernard Schiele and in collaboration with Michel Claessens, Toss Gascoigne, Shi Shunke; Science Press Beijng, 2006) is a response from the public face of science, the science communicators. It stresses local action at community level and focus on long term effects. Itfs snapshot of ideas that work, a combination of theory and practice. It contains good ideas and the methodologies that lie behind them.
The papers included in this book were presented at a symposium in Beijing, and voted by the international delegates as the most challenging, the most relevant and the most useful. Among them a paper on the Observafs First Italian Science in society Forum 2005 by Valeria Arzenton, Massimiano Bucchi and Federico Neresini and the paper Communicating science in the real context of society, by Bernard Schiele.
This one provides an analytical view of the public communication of science and technology It examines the history of such communication and the relationships that science has with the general public. Four key conclusions emerge from this analysis, and from the presentations and discussions at the symposium.
Trust | The public’s doubt about science, especially controversial science, needs to be recognized and taken into account by scientists, research organizations and government.
Knowledge gap|Research is expanding into new fields so rapidly that no-one can keep up. The widening gap in knowledge between scientists and the general public needs to be accepted as a constant reality of the environment within which science communication will always work.
Local action|Science communication needs to respond to clearly identified local issues, by fostering local actions focused on concrete situations.
Long-term actions|Science communication is a long-term process that needs to take into account the time taken to develop social relationships and shared meanings.
To read the full paper, download the pdf.