693   Roundtable discussion

Three principles from the book Communicating Science. A Global Perspective

The book collects accounts of how modern science communication has developed in 39 countries. Eleven rank outside the top hundred in per capita wealth, and five are Muslim-majority countries. Five are from Africa, seven from the Americas, 11 from Asia and the rest from Europe and Australasia.  We have 39 reports from 115 authors.

Three principles emerge from these stories. 

The first is that community knowledge is a powerful force. In rural Kenya, the number of babies delivered by unskilled people led to high mortality. Local science communication practices provided a solution.  A baraza (community discussion) integrated the health problem with social solutions, and trained local motorcycle riders to transport mothers to hospitals. The baraza used role-plays to depict the arrival of a mother to a health facility, reactions from the health providers, eventual safe delivery of the baby, and mother and baby riding back home.

A second principle is how science communication can enhance the integration of science with other beliefs. Science and religion, for example, are not always at odds. The Malaysian chapter describes how Muslim concepts of halal (permitted) and haram (forbidden) determine the acceptability of biotechnology according to the principles of Islamic law. Does science pose any threat to the five purposes of maslahah (public interest): religion, life and health, progeny, intellect and property? 

The third is an approach to pursuing and debating science for the public good. Science communication has made science more accessible, and public opinions and responses more likely to be sought. The “third mission”, an established principle across Europe, is an expectation that researchers will contribute to the growth, welfare and development of society. 

Discussants: Toss Gascoigne (editor), Bernard Schiele (analyst), Margaret Kaseje (author) and Joan Leach (Editorial Board).  

Chair Michelle Riedlinger (Editorial Board and chapter author).

Author: Toss Gascoigne
Australian National University, Australia

Toss Gascoigne conceived and edited this collection. It began before the PCST Conference in Brazil in 2014, when 14 authors presented information on key dates in their countries. Our subsequent book describing the way modern science communication emerged in 39 different countries can be downloaded free at https://press.anu.edu.au/publications/communicating-science. The introduction to the book, co-authored by Toss and Bernard Schiele, summarises the main themes and issues documented in the chapters. It compares participating countries according to their wealth, religion, history, democratic system and other geo-physical factors, and describes problems the countries face. Toss is also co-author of the chapter on Australia

Speaker: Bernard Schiele
UQAM, Canada

Professor Bernard Schiele is a member of the Editorial Board of the book, and has exhaustively analysed the data in the 39 chapters and the accompanying timelines. He has drawn out comparative data from these accounts to describe the way different countries created a path to modern science communication. His data includes an analysis of the terminology different countries use to describe "science communication" and records that contributing authors used 16 different terms for what the book calls 'science communication'. His analysis gives a valuable insight into trends and directions. These data have never been seen before.

Speaker: Margaret Kaseje
Professor & Director of Research and Programmes, Tropical Institute of Community Health and Developm, Kenya

Dr Margaret Kaseje co-authored a core chapter on communication around health issues in East Africa: HIV, polio, genital mutilation of girls are the issues she explores. Her chapter discusses the development and role that science communication has played in Africa, with illustrations from different countries in sub-Saharan Africa and using the field of health to demonstrate the challenges faced by communities and governments. Science communication developed differently in Africa compared to countries in the Global North. This distinction introduces an often-ignored contestation in the field: between the public understanding of science (PUS), a paradigm that anchors the justification for science communication in e.g. Kenya, and science communication per se.

Speaker: Joan Leach
Australian National University,

Professor Joan Leach is director of the Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at the Australian National University, the lead organisation of the 4-day meeting at the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Centre. The event has been postponed by COVID, but this discussion will pick up some of the themes earmarked for Bellagio

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