On Friday I had the pleasure of being able to attend the Science in Public conference at UCL. Unfortunately I could only go for one day due to other commitments but here’s my round up of the sessions that I attended.
|PechaKucha presentations on Current Issues on Science in Public|
This was my first experience of the PechaKucha presentation method which involves 20 automated slides lasting for 20 seconds each to facilitate a concise, dynamic presentation. I did appreciate its power to keep the talk moving however it does require a lot of preparation and a very smooth public speaker to be able to utilise it to its full efficacy. Furthermore, it forces the speaker to develop a slide to match what they are saying which can sometimes detract from what they are discussing and they can sometimes rush what they are saying in order to meet the time constraints.
There were four speakers in this introductory session:
- Sai Pathmanathan a science education consultant who discussed science and entertainment media.
- Martin Bauer from LSE who is the current editor of the Public UNderstanding of Science journal
- Charlotte Sleigh from the University of Kent who spoke about the public as patrons of science.
- Angela Cassidy from Imperial College who discussed animals in the news media.
Personally I felt that Charlotte Sleigh’s talk was the most engaging and useful as a introductory talk. Although the others were interesting they were slightly niche and didn’t represent a full range of current issues. Charlotte gave an alternative view of the public as patrons of science who can give reputation and direction to science.
|Learning from science communication’s past|
I thoroughly enjoyed this session in particular Fern Elsdon-Baker’s discussion on cross cultural perspectives on the science and belief debate with particular reference to evolutionary theory. She points out that evolutionary theory and atheism have become conflated in recent years which has been driven by certain people *cough* Richard Dawkins. She argues that this atheist communication of evolutionary theory can obscure the scientific basis and it becomes a discussion about faith rather than science. Science communication projects such as Darwin Now have worked to unpick the original message of evolutionary theory and attempt to uncover the ideological drivers of this clash narrative between evolution and religion.
|Science, politics and publics - historical perspectives|
Not much to say on this, not my area of interest it turns out and I wish I had picked another session to attend. Nothing against the speakers just not my cup of tea!
|Keynote - James Wilsdon. Open Season|
This was most definitely my favourite session of the day. Open access in science is very topical at the moment and the subject of much debate. However, as good as open access sounds there are many things to consider such as what happens to smaller independent journals who rely on fees and how will open access be reconciled with the regulatory/review process.
Another issue Prof Wilsdon discussed was one that is not normally mentioned in the open access debate. There is a darker side to the strive for open access and that is that openness itself can also act to close down.
The same people who want to open up also want to close down other debates - James Wilsdon
Closure can also come from austerity (which happens all too often these days), audit and appraisal, and authority and hierarchy.
Another interesting point which Simon Lock pointed out during the questions was if there is a move to open access what then happens to public engagement? If the data and information is freely available to the public then what is the need for a go-between? Although as part of austerity measures public engagement has been cut down a lot I feel it is still necessary in order to aid in interpretation.
Altogether a very good conference and thank you to all those who organised it!