Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Scientists, Media and Society

By Peter Pockley

Peter Pockley reports from a conference held by the Australian Science Communicators.

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As I start assembling for publication a historical account of the sometimes fractious relations between scientists, media and society, the recent biennial conference of the Australian Science Communicators association provided a window on the current state of play.

First, who does the ASC represent? Of the 257 delegates on the official list, by my count practising scientists (8) and full-time media professionals (13) were very small minorities. There were only three teachers.

The largest contingent of 59 covered institutional public relations/communications in research organisations, followed by 38 PR consultants and 35 in government employment. PROs in universities (12), museums (10) and independent agencies (10) formed another block.

Thus, the ASC covers a substantial group of operatives but at the interstices of the scientists/media/society triangle. They are a keen bunch committed to improving, for example, the coverage of science in the media. Dominantly though, they are expected by their employing organisations or clients to promote their "brand" in outlets to the public, rather than articulating, in the broad, the nature, values and verities of science for countering the current antagonism towards science in public, such as regarding climate change.

That the role of the dedicated scientist/communicator needs promotion was highlighted by...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

© Peter Pockley —