PCST-10 conference ‘increased awareness of the Scandinavian science communication’

June 29, 2008

The PCST-10 conference was an opportunity for increasing the awareness of science communication in Scandinavia and of the science communicators who work in the region, according to Jan Riise, executive coordinator of the meeting.

“It was an injection of energy and inspirations for those who are working in science communication in Scandinavia”, said to SciDev.Net Riise.

He also believes that bringing the conference to Scandinavia allowed expanding the international network, engaging more people in the region. Riise highlighted that he believes that people from other countries also enjoyed the conference, going back with new contacts and ideas.

PCST-10 finished on Saturday (28 June) with two post-conferences: Science Communication Training of Trainers Workshop, aimed at pcst-10 conference participants who may currently be training scientists for public communication, or who expect to be doing so, and Science Festivals all over the world.

The first one was a workshop presented by Esconet (European Science Communication Network), which has developed 12 science communication training modules as part of an eu-funded project.

The second post-conference was headed by the EUSCEA, the European Science Events Association, with almost 70 members in more than 30 countries. About 30 people participated, sharing experiences carried in Australia, Brazil, China, Denmark, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands, US, UK, and France.

The importance of evaluating such science street initiatives – and how to do such evaluation in a significant way – was one of the most issues discussed in the second workshop.

“The workshop on science street was valid for meeting colleagues from other countries and realise that the some problems and issues are the some, doesn’t matter the country,” said Riise, who was head of the workshop and is president of EUSCEA.

Luisa Massarani, Latin America coordinator, SciDev.Net


Science communicators propose to fight climate change

June 28, 2008

Science communicators across the world have proposed more than hundres recommendations for better communicating the dangerous impacts of climate change and the ways to take mitigation measures. Their recommendations will be submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to fuel further anti-climate change actions.

The project, named Copenhagen Challenge, is part of the 10th conference on the Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST) held in Malmo of Sweden and Copenhagen of Denmark between 24 and 27 June.

While climate change has become an established fact to the science community, it is still a changing work to persuade industries, politicians and many of the public to take actions, said Mikkel Bohm, director of Danish Science Communication, at the Copenhagen Challenge session on 26 June.

He says that the gathering of science communicators at the PCST meeting has offered a marvelous chance to “build bridges and dialogues in the societies on the issues of climate changes.”

The 14 topics of Copenhagen Challenge were distributed to all of the PCST participants two week before the conference and the attendees – more than 500 – were organised into 73 focus groups at the session to offer their recommendations.

The challenges include topics like how to communicate climate change without modern mass media; how to deal with regional differences of climate change; communicating in order to make people change behaviour; communicating conflicting views and using new electronic media for communicating climate change.

Each of the Copenhagen Challenge focus groups consists of communicators of different regions, background and professions, and is allowed to offer up to three recommendations to one of the 14 challenges plus some key words needed for climate change communication.

The challenge and recommendations were discussed within each group for the whole afternoon and then they were input by organizers to the Copenhagen Challenge website (http://fm.formidling.dk/pcst/rec) as well as submitted to UNFCCC.

Participants have actively joined the discussion, debates and solution designs. In the challenge how to communicate climate change without modern mass media, for example, they have recommended solutions like using the natural meeting places such as schools, shops and hospitals; adopting rich folk art, like folk songs, games, toys, folk theater and dances; and identifying the local problems and needs of the community related to climate change and focusing on these to design particular strategies within relevant communities.

Similarly, they also suggested to “localise both the impacts of climate change and the impacts of people’s activity alternation on the climate” in dealing with the challenge to change people’s behaviours.

“We have had an overweight of recommendations, and they will form a good start for us to deal with climate change through communications,” Bohm told the next day (27 June)’s PCST conference.

He says that all recommendations will be submitted to UNFCCC in their original forms instead of forming a report prioritizing some over others. “All of them will eventually be chosen by some people having relevance,” Bohn told SciDev.Net.

Manoj Patairiya, President of Indian Science Writers’ Association, welcomes the work under Copenhagen Challenge, saying it offers a constructive open platform to discuss communicating climate change issues.

“But there should be more topics related to the communication situation in the developing countries, such as the contradictions between development and tapping climate changes,” Manoj told SciDev.Net.

Jia Hepeng, China Coordinator, SciDev.Net


Second PCST book published

June 27, 2008

A book containing the wisdoms of science communicators worldwide has been published. The book Communicating science in social contexts conveys science communication theory and practices, published by Springer, was launched at the second day (June 26, 2008 ) of the 10th international conference of the PCST (Public communication of science and technology).

“All I have to do is to read it time and time again. It is rich of critical thinking,” says editor Cheng Donghong, executive secretary of China Association for Science and Technology (CAST) and also a member of the PCST Scientific Committee, at the book launching ceremony.

Cheng is one of the six editors of the book. The others include Michel Claessens from UK, Toss Gascoigne and Jenni Metcalfe from Australia, Bernard Schiele from Canada, and Shunke Shi from China.

The book is written by 31 authors from 10 countries such as China, Australia, United Kingdom and Sweden, with contents ranging from reflections on the science communication theories to how to implement concrete science communication plans in the complicated social contexts. All these editors are members of the PCST Scientific Committee.

All of the book editors made short speeches in the entrance hall of Malmo University, Sweden, to celebrate the new book’s release. All participations of the conference can get a free book on spot. It is the second book on science communication edited and published by PCST Scientific Committee, after the first one Science communication in a human face, published in 2006.

Chen Weixiao, Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and SciDev.Net intern


The power of stories

June 26, 2008

Science communicators from around the globe took the opportunity to explore the power of storytelling as a science communication tool during day two of the PCST conference in Malmö, Sweden (Thursday 26 June 2008).

“Believing is seeing,” said John Reid, a visual artist and lecturer at the Australia National University who captivated the audience with his story and visuals of the enigmatic fishman of South East Australia. He went on to tell the audience about using this story as a tool to encourage people to explore and experience the natural world. He also showed evidence of the power of this tory to help conserve some of Australia’s bushland.

Bienvenido Leon from the University of Navarra in Spain reported on their research into the role of narrative in high quality television documentaries. He explained the importance of elements such as conflict, resolution, proximity, adventure, discovery, a search for truth and a scientist as the hero in a science documentary using a narrative approach.

Both presenters agreed that telling stories work because they create a unity with the audience and involve people’s emotions – both things that are hard to achieve with most other science communication approaches. A good science story will start where people are and bring the contents of the story really close to them, show them how it affects their lives and get an emotional response from them. If it leads to some discussion, even some heated debate, it worked, Leon believes. “A good story also exercises the imagination,” Reid explained. “What you don’t say is just as important as what you do say.” The power of imagination makes radio a powerful medium for storytelling.

Together with the audience the presenters debated the best way find a balance between scientific rigour and accuracy on the one hand, and entertainment value and clarity on the other. “If your story is too much about explaining the science, you will lose viewers,” Leon said. “On the other hand, if the story is only about entertainment and sensationalism, you may lose credibility.” He commented on how the pressures of getting good audience ratings are forcing documentary producers to move towards higher entertainment value.

While some stories may have cultural nuances and age sensitivities, the session participants agreed that a good story is able to take on a life of its own and travel across cultures. We need to invest more in using and studying this potentially powerful tool to share science across the globe, was the unanimous conclusion of this session.

Marina Joubert, Southern Science, South Africa, and SciDev.Net science communication advisor

Philanthropist to invest two science institutes in China

June 26, 2008

Fred Kavli, founder and chairman of the Kavli Foundation, will soon launch two research institutes he sponsored, the philanthropist revealed at the 10th meeting of the PCST (Public communication of science and technology) held in Malmo, Sweden.

The institutes – Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Peking University, Beijing, China, and Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics China at the Chinese Academy of Sciences – are the only two in the developing world among the 15 institutes the California, United States-based foundation has supported across the world. Others Kavli institutes include Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science and Kavli Institute for Bionano Science and Technology at Harvard University.

“Although in the level of scientific excellence, China is still not comparable with Europe and the United States, it has developed so fast in recent years. I believe my supporting of the two institutes will corroborate my belief to use basic research to benefit the people,” says Kavli, in the sideline of a PCST session at which he announced the first Kavli Prize.

Seven pioneering scientists in the fields of nanoscience, neuroscience and astrophysics have become the first recipients of the million-dollar Kavli prizes.

Kavli Foundation will give US$3 million to each of the two Chinese research institutes as the first batch of inputs, which will be followed by more operation costs. Douglas Lin, a distinguished professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Yue-Liang Wu of the Institute of Theoretical Physics (ITP) at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, will lead the two Kavli China institutes respectively.

While supporting researches, Kavli says he hopes the two institutes he supported could become a model for the developing world scientists to communicate their researches to the public.

“We have required that each of our institutes must communicate their studies to the public to enhance the common welfare. We are to integrate the successful experience of the 13 other Kavli institutes, including their science communication strategies, into the two China institutes to enhance their skills,” Kavli told SciDev.Net.

Jia Hepeng, China Coordinator, SciDev.Net


Science journalism urged to be more locally relevant

June 26, 2008

Presenters at a session of the 10th meeting of the PCST (Public communication of science and technology) urged science journalism in the developing countries to be more locally relevant and use local cultures to fuel the communicative effects of the science news.

Luisa Massarani, SciDev.Net’s Latin America coordinator, reveals in her study tracing science and technology (S&T) reporting in 12 major Latin American newspapers in 2006 that 7 of the 12 have more than 40 per cent of science news about situations in the developed world.

Massarani had done a similar research two years before on local media’s science news sources and found quite similar situation. “Most newspapers remain the same trend [in getting more science news sources from the developed world].”

Marina Joubert from Southern Science, South Africa, revealed similar situation in the science reporting in her country. She cited a study on March 2008 to show that among the science news stories by Cape Time, a leading South African newspaper, 51 per cent are news about other countries, primarily the developed world researches.

“The larger amount of international science news makes readers think science is irrelevant to their life, especially among those strapped in extreme poverty,” Joubert says.

Besides, Massarani also found that among Latin American science news, there is a low critical attitude toward the information sources, mainly those from the so-called First World. Also, there are high percentages of stories replicated from news agencies, without a concern of putting in the context and double check the information.

Joubert admits that in the current situation, it is difficult for the developing world to establish enough science news sources to feed local media, but there are ways to make science journalism in these countries to be more locally relevant.

“The comments of local scientists and members of the audiences on the applications of the newest scientific discoveries originated from the developed world will help shorten the distance between science and local readers,” she told SciDev.Net.

Joubert added that local cultural resources should also be used to make science news read by more local residents. For example, traditional healing is popular in many developing countries. “Some of them might wrong, but telling the readers how science prove this conclusion, or how scientists are researching traditional healing, could be an effective way to spread scientific knowledge among people familiar with this form of indigenous knowledge,” she says.

Separately, Larry Sanger, founder of Wikipedia and Editor-in-Chief of the Citizendium, told the plenary meeting of PCST conference on Tuesday that although the required multidisciplinary collaborative work for science communication, especially to engage scientists, is very difficult, the Wiki model – allowing scientists to define and introduce researches in their own motif online – could be helpful because this could utilized the very wiliness of scientists to show off their researches.

Jia Hepeng, China coordinator, SciDev.Net


PCST-10 kicks off today

June 25, 2008

Wednesday, 25 June 2008. About 560 delegates from 40 countries are gathered in Malmo, a city at the southern tip of Sweden, for the tenth conference of the Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST) network. The conference programme is packed with more than 300 presentations in more than 60 sessions over three days.

The conference theme “Building Bridges to the Future” is beautifully illustrated by the nearby spectacular Oresund bridge, connecting the two host countries, Sweden and Denmark. On Thursday afternoon conference delegates will participate in a novel science communication experiment. During a bus trip to Copenhagen and an afternoon in the city, they will discuss a range of science communication challenges relating to climate change and draft recommendations to the United Nations. These will be posted on the conference web site by Friday morning (www.vr.se/pcst)

At a pre-conference meeting of the PCST committee several future PCST events were confirmed, namely:

1. The next PCST conference will take place from 6 – 10 December 2010 in New Delhi, India. With more htan 1 billion people, India is one of the world´s most culturally diverse countries and the conference will also look at the challenges of diversity in science communication.

2. The twelfth PCST conference, in 2012, will focus on “Beauty and quality in science communication” and will be held in Firenze, Italy.

3. A smaller PCST regional symposium will take place in Cartagena, Colombia during September 2009. This event will focus on democracy and development with the theme “PCST as an instrument for democratisation of science and technology knowledge”.

Future information about these events will be posted on the PCST web site at www.pcstacademy.org

Marina Joubert, Southern Science, South Africa, and SciDev.Net science communication advisor


Science communication a key factor to promote city development

June 24, 2008

A major official at the host city of the 10th meeting of the PCST (Public communication of science and technology) praised the communication of science and technology as an important tool to reactivate the declining economy, as the world’s most important science communication event was launched in the Swedish city of Malmö on 24 June.

Anders Rubin, local government commissioner of the city of Malmö, told the opening reception of PCST-10 that the third largest Swedish city used to be a manufacturing centre in the country, but it has run down as the traditional industries declined.

But science, technology and innovation is a way to invigorate the city. While their development is important for the economic issues, it is also true that if the public are not fully involved in the science and technology development, they cannot provide vital forces needed for the progress in science and technology.

In this sense, science communication plays a key role in invigorating Malmö’s economy. “Someday, I hope when I listen to the radio, I can hear the radio programme of technologies. We hope science communicators can bring more people in,” Rubin told the conference reception.

The PCST-10 conference, which will range between 24 and 28 June, will include seminars and presentations around four sub-themes:

1. emerging issues in science and society;

2. engaging and empowering scientists and the public;

3. assessing impact and outcomes and

4. developing media, methods, and meeting places.

More than 500 science communicators, including scientists, communication professors and practitioners, and journalists from around the world have come to attend the meeting.

Among various topical issues, climate change has once again become a major theme for discussion and debates at the meeting. In addition, science journalism has once against become a major topic for further discussion at the event.

Other interesting seminars of it include a parallel event named power, conflict and consensus in the dialogic communication of knowledge.

Jia Hepeng, China Coordinator, SciDev.Net


PCST a nice chance to gather

June 23, 2008

From Friday (20 June), the attention to public communication of science and technology (PCST) in China has intensified as the Chinese Academy of Science and Technology (CAST) convened a meeting of all the 16 Chinese participants in the event. The leaders of CAST will attend the 10th meeting of PCST in Stockholm, Sweden, this week, along with many famous science communication scholars.

As far as I know, Chinese delegates will present topics ranging from the science popularisation situation in grassroots levels to science communication educations.

I will be present a talk analysing why, despite the repeated calls from Chinese leaders, science reporting is in the decline in China. After some theoretical reflections, I have focused on the analysis of the transmission of information from science communities to the general mass media. I found that the news releases produced by science institutes here are more likely to be a propaganda to appease scientific leaders rather than to engage the public.

Jia Hepeng, China coordinator, SciDev.Net


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