Adventures in science communication: from dunking biscuits to the politics of risk
Dr Leonard Fisher (Physics, Bristol)
Frank lecture theatre
“Not explaining science seems to me perverse. When you're in love, you want to tell the world.”
Many of us would agree with Carl Sagan’s famous dictum. We would love to share the experience of science, and to help make science more an integral part of our culture. But how should we go about it? In this talk I will relate my own experiences, embedded in the context of the science communication movement as whole.
My approach has been to demonstrate how scientists think about real-life problems, from the seemingly trivial and everyday to the serious problems that the world now faces. The journey began in 1996, with a British Association media fellowship to work with BBC Television’s “Tomorrow’s World”, where I developed a world record indoor boomerang throwing contest. It has subsequently taken me from the physics of biscuit dunking to communicating with politicians and business leaders about how science can help us to understand and tackle the systemic risks faced by our increasingly networked world.
Speaking truth to power is never easy, and doesn't always work. When that truth involves science, the task can be even more difficult, as many scientists have found. Here I review some of the lessons learned by myself and others involved with science communication, and offer suggestions for ways in which more scientists might take up the cudgels in an era when science is increasingly under attack, but where its insights are needed more than ever.
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