Saturday, February 24, 2007

Bernard Schiele makes some interesting comments in the December 2006 issue of RTD info magazine (which for some bizarre reason only arrived in my letterbox today late in February 2007!).

This RTD info "magazine of European Research" from the European Commission often has interesting articles, and the interview with Bernard Schiele gives an insight into some of the challenges faced by the media when covering science. He's a member of the PCST (Public Communication of Science and Technology) scientific committee and a Professor in the Communications Faculty of the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM), and he points out that:
the media are often in a difficult position [...] They often bemoan the researcher's lack of talent in the art of communication, but at the same time that justifies their own role. Nevertheless, whenever they find a scientist who seems to be at ease and has a certain 'aura', the media are quick enough to call on that person for every topic [...]
He also discusses briefly the changing role of museums / science centres and he has this to say on the topic:
Museums’ treatment of science is undergoing a “cultural revolution”. The new centres are placing an emphasis on the relationship with communication, producing interactive exhibits that are both educational and playful in order to capture the attention of visitors and concentrate on the technical and industrial realisation of the research, but that did not count on the questions of a public that does not necessarily want all the answers, but does want to be able to contemplate.

Museum directors are, therefore, torn between a new relationship between science and society, which suggests to them that science should be depicted just as it is, a more critical general public, and pressure from the cultural sector towards consumption. Fortunately, they also know that while they can never compete with Disneyland, they will never return to a rose-tinted view of progress. It is maybe this frame of mind that tells us that making an effort in scientific communication can bear fruit…
This analysis is of particular relevance to Ireland now that the exciting plans for the Exploration Station science centre to be based in Dublin have recently been launched...

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