Just published: my latest journal paper, in the Journal of Science Communication, reporting the first results of a survey of 575 Doctor Who fans about the show’s impact on their relationship to science.
Punchline: some viewers were inspired to pursue science careers because of Doctor Who, while for others it contributed to their ideas about science ethics, the place of science in society, and more. But it varied, a lot.
Paper here (open access): here.
Data here, if you’re interested in looking, citing or collaborating with me on further analyses: here.
Conversation article summarising the main points: here.
Like it or not, popular fiction shapes policy debates
In 2017, Australia’s Chief Scientist Alan Finkel proposed all leaders be required to read science fiction to help them understand the past and future of science and technology as well as how new innovations might affect human society.
Similarly, in 2015, his predecessor Ian Chubb said science teachers could learn a thing or two from the television sitcom The Big Bang Theory about making science fun.
This isn’t just Australian contrarianism. Britain’s former science minister Malcolm Wicks suggested in 2007 that teachers use scenes from Doctor Who and Star Wars to kickstart discussion in science classrooms.
Lindy Orthia and Rachel Morgain
How do you get people to care about your science? Is anybody listening?
Science communication is more than great charisma or fun writing. Context matters. So we produced this infographic of 5 mnemonics to help.
If you want to know more about any of the 5, read on.
Click image to download or find it at slideshare here.
And my second post for The Conversation concerns similarities between this year’s federal election issues and the concerns of Sydney citizens writing into the Sydney Gazette in 1803 and 1804.
Today marks a significant event in any academic’s life – my first article for The Conversation.
Even more significant for a science communication academic who wants to practice what she preaches.
Rachel Morgain and I published a piece based on our Doctor Who, gender and science research paper which is already gaining traction in the number of reads.
Today I published in Minerva a review paper examining the reception of a classic 1993 history of science paper by Andrew Cunningham and Perry Williams that proposed a new big picture of the history of science to replace the prevailing ‘Scientific Revolution’-based big picture.
Cunningham and Williams proposed instead that ‘science’ (read modern, western science) was invented in the late 18th/early 19th century in an institutional and ideological sense. And therefore science is only modern and western, and needs to be de-centred within our big picture conceptions of the history of human knowledge-making, and seen more on a par with every other knowledge-making system across the world and through time.
I have been enamoured of their paper since I read it, and wanted to find out if other scholars have accepted, rejected or ignored it in the 20 years since they published it. In other words, should I take it seriously?
Hence my review paper, published here.
In a new paper I co-authored with my PhD student Rashel Li, we show that viewers of The Big Bang Theory learn about aspects of the nature of science from the sitcom. The paper was published in the International Journal of Science Education Part B, and was based on data from Rashel’s PhD research. Continue reading
In 2011 I co-supervised Martina Donkers in an innovative honours project in which she put on a production of the play A Number by renowned English playwright Caryl Churchill, then undertook survey and focus group-based research to find out whether and how audience members engaged with the play’s theme human cloning.
We have now published that research in the International Journal of Science Education, Part B – available here.
If you can’t get past the journal paywall, you can try here instead.
In 2012 I co-supervised then-undergradute student Amy Dobos in a research project examining the effectiveness of digitally-produced pictures for communicating about Alzheimer’s disease research (see here and here). Amy created the pictures using her skills as a photographer and science communicator, and then surveyed people interested in Alzheimer’s disease about their interpretations of them.
A paper writing up that research has now been accepted for publication in one of the best science communication journals, Public Understanding of Science.
Amy is the lead author of the paper, followed by me and project advisor, Rod Lamberts.
This is the third student-authored journal paper to have emerged from a student-run research project conducted through one of my undergraduate courses.
My heartfelt congratulations to Amy.
Update May 27 – now prepublished online here.
Republished blog post, first posted at Diffusion in January 2010.
Edited only to update some key dates and references, so the content reflects the time.
Posted for archival purposes.
The UK’s public broadcaster the BBC has this month [January 2010, the original date I posted this essay] commissioned a study into representations of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people in its fiction and non-fiction programs (BBC News, 2010).
Of particular interest to science communicators is representations of scientists in fiction, and this study seems a timely prompt to ask: are there any queer scientist characters on telly?