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Science and the public: uncertain pasts, presents and futures

By October 28, 2008 No Comments

The 3rd Annual Science and the Public Conference (in Manchester last June) was a very enjoyable affair (see programme here). Now, the 4th annual conference has been announced — this time in Brighton, 13-14 June 2009. The theme for next year’s meeting is ‘Science and the public: uncertain pasts, presents and futures’ and here’s the (maybe at trifle too vaguely phrased for my taste) call for papers:

The relationship between science and the public has provided fruitful material for analysis from a range of academic disciplines, and an important area of policy and practice, in recent years. Studies and experience have revealed a startling complexity, past and present, in science communication, a range of channels (formal, informal, fictional) through which dialogue and debate takes place, and a wide variety of participants in these interactions. Science itself has been reconceptualised, and the complexity of science as a discourse, as practice and as a form of life raises many questions. Science has long been seen as a quest for certainty, even if that goal is unachievable, but our interactions with and examinations of science often reveal, and are characterised by, many uncertainties: what are we encountering, describing and making when we examine science in its many forms? At the same time as this critical examination of the interface between science and the public has been taking place, a dramatic proliferation in modes and amounts of public engagement with science occurred. Science museums, outreach work and edutainment for younger people have achieved new prominence while history of science and popular science texts flourish in the market. This conference will bring together academics and practitioners who have an interest in the intersection of science and non-science, be that in contemporary, past or future societies, to confront and discuss the uncertainties, and certainties, of science and the public.

Possible topics looks like a delicious smorgasboard:
•       Scientific controversies in the media
•       Experts and expertise in public
•       The representation of science in fiction
•       Public expectations of science and technology
•       Historical analysis of the relationship between science and the public
•       The role of museums, outreach and edutainment
•       Science communication in theory and practice
•       The role of news and entertainment media (including the internet)
•       The construction of interdisciplinary projects and frameworks

Not much falls outside this list, I guess — probably a good thing, because the field is so new that it is great to hear a large variety of topics.

Two seasoned practitioners in the field — Patricia Fara (Clare College, Cambridge) and Steve Fuller (Warwick) — have been engaged as invited speakers. Everybody else is supposed to send 300 word abstracts for individual papers, panel proposals or roundtable proposals to scienceandpublic@googlemail.com before 14 February 2009. Someone on that email address can probably also answer inquiries.

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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