June 25, 2009
One of the things I do in the evenings and weekends is copy-editing. Lots of different stuff – textbooks and science and philosophy and religion and … I love helping other people make the sort of book they really want to write. (I am, however, famously nit-picking and pedantic. Don’t come to me if you want to use ‘impact’ as a verb.)
The book I’ve been working on recently is a beginner’s guide to journalism, one of the chapters of which is about the future of journalism now that we’re all content-providers (this, being said on a blog, is looking dangerously incestuous).
What intrigued me is that how ‘citizen journalism’ could be replaced by ‘citizen science’ and the sense would have been exactly the same. Citizen journalism is democratising, heralds the beginning of ‘bottom-up’ journalism but are standards under threat? Instead of carefully-crafted news, are we faced with a flood of pseudo-news? Rather than a tightly-argued discussion of a complex event, will readers be left to weave the narrative for themselves from a bunch of hyperlinks? What happens to quality and content when untrained ‘news bunnies’ are let loose? While blogging and micro-blogging open up critical debate, do they also increase the quantity of unverified fact at large in the ether?
The zeitgeist is changing. From advertising to zoology, the old metrics don’t work as well any more. So we have to create new ones but in doing so, we’ll set everything in flux and have to go through a period of some pain.
June 23, 2009
Maybe it’s because I’m a neophyte conference attendee but why are many of the sessions telling us things I think we already know?
It troubles me that scientists are still able to say that one of the reasons they don’t get involved in public engagement activities is because such work isn’t valued by their universities. I’ve read it in academic papers and I’ve heard people say it here at the conference.
The first of today’s sessions was a panel session with three scientists well-known for their communication work on screen, on radio and in print. All of them also professors either of public understanding of science or science and society. All very enthusiastic to promote scientists’, universities’ and even industry’s involvement in PE. But they also told us more or less the same things.
Hmm … I’ve given talks at conferences too. (All outside the UK, as it happens.). Maybe I’ve told people what they already know as well …
Stop press – I take some of that back: just heard a very interesting ten minutes on the nature and qualities of evaluation and what it says about science communication.
June 22, 2009
Posting at the science communication conference, so apologies for the telegraphic style. But, appropriately, am in a session on blogging, Twitter and social networking.
–just discovered the twitter feed for the conference is #scc2009–
This morning, Johnathan Porritt, the keynote speaker, took the traditional triumvirate technique. Trust, Tone, Transparency. Since I finished the last post saying I needed to think about trust – good connexion.
Does trust require certainty? Climate change (Johnathan’s interest) is debated; in an uncertain world, how do we know when to trust? The process of science is dynamic and uncertain – and would we want it any other way – which makes it exciting but not necessarily trustable.
How do we convey the excitement of science-a-it-happens and generate trust?
June 21, 2009
I’ve spent a lot of my time over the last few months – as you might expect – reading my way round the blogosphere. To my shame, I now can’t remember in which particular blog I came across this quote from Peter Medewar, in his Advice to a Young Scientist but I love it:
The agreed house rule of the little group of close colleagues I have always worked with has always been ‘Tell everyone everything you know’; and I don’t know anyone who came to any harm by falling in with it.
Doing our science in the open means that we are telling everyone but this might be a bit fear-making. The image I have in my mind is Gollum (Lord of the Rings), clutching the ring to his chest, hissing ‘the Precious is mine …’. (For full effect, you have to have heard the 1981 BBC radio version but I expect you get my drift.) I suspect I’m going to be spending some time tangling with issues of gatekeeping and measures of confidence and reliability. What happens to peer-review, precedence and trust? (Mind you, how much can we rely on peer-review when we see deliberate fraud, fakery and one country outsourcing its peer-review to another in the face of accusations of conflict of interest?) Open peer-review might be a way forward but how do we get over the hump that so many are unwilling to contribute to the forums?
Precedence is maybe easier to think around. Jean-Claude Bradley said ‘if someone actually did try to scoop you, it would be very easy to prove your priority – and to embarrass them. I think that’s really what is going to drive open science: the fear factor. If you wait for the journals, your work won’t appear for another six to nine months. But with open science, your claim to priority is out there right away’.
Trust will have to wait for a another time. I’m off to a conference on science communication for a couple of days and I haven’t packed my suitcase yet.
June 19, 2009
I’m five months (heavens, am I really?) into a research project in Open Science and Public Engagement. It’s really rather unfair to carry out a project looking at Open Science without working openly myself, so hence this blog.
Open Science is an emerging approach in which the whole of a project and its data are made available for anyone to follow, analyse and potetially contribute to. Public engagement is variously defined but my current favourite comes from the Center for the Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE): ‘mutual learning by publics and by scientists’ and ‘recognition of the importance of multiple perspectives and domains of knowledge’.
When a research project embraces Open Science, there is automatically a public engagement component – if the science is out there, someone who’s interested will find it. I’m interested in finding ways to allow the ‘mutual learning’ to happen: not only that the science becomes open for public engagement but the public engagement feeds back into the science.