Anti-racist science communication starts with recognising its globally diverse historical footprint

Science Communication is often presented as a unique response to and offshoot of the prevalence of western science in modern societies. Lindy Orthia and Elizabeth Rasekoala argue against this notion, suggesting that a temporally and culturally limited understanding of science communication, in turn promotes a limited discipline of science communication and serves to perpetuate a singular idea of how and for whom science is communicated.

How old is science communication? 

If you’ve been reading science communication history you’d probably say a few decades as an academic discipline, and two to four centuries as a professional helpmate to institutionalised science.

Yet human beings have been communicating science for millennia. They have been crafting words to communicate their knowledge for particular audiences, aims, mediums and contexts, in such a way that others enjoy it, remember it and can reproduce it themselves, much like science communication professionals today.

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Scicom is much older, bigger and more diverse than the recent West

My latest paper, “Strategies for including communication of non-Western and indigenous knowledges in science communication histories”, was published in the Journal of Science Communication on April 2nd.

I’m yet to promote it more actively than tweeting the link but am proud of the altmetric score of 43 it has already gained (top 5%).

Prouder still that some amazing people have endorsed the paper on Twitter, including thought leaders in sci com, science equity and Indigenous science engagement:

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Doctor Who engages viewers with science, but not all the time and not consistently

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.

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Science fiction as a potent policy tool

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.

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Tips for effective #scicomm

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.

Orthia & Morgain Scicomm tool Continue reading

And another

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.

https://theconversation.com/the-science-issues-this-election-are-as-old-as-the-australian-media-59676

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First article for The Conversation: Doctor Who’s female scientists through time

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.

Very exciting!

What’s wrong with talking about the Scientific Revolution? Let me tell you…

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.

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Viewers learn about the Nature of Science from The Big Bang Theory

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

Honours student’s study on science theatre now published

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.

Congratulations Marti!