Creating a future: The tower of Babel or a bridge?

In the digital age, we benefit from the achievements of research and technology more than ever before. At the same time, facts are also doubted more than ever before. A challenge for science communication – an philosophical insight from our Ukrainian guest researcher.

The development of science reminds a Bible myth about the appearance of different languages, every kind of knowledge produces many special terms, methods of argumentation and explanation. So, it is becoming more difficult to find essential links between different spheres of research and understand each other not just inside of the scientific community, but in a wide social context too. Modern science becomes more like a “conspiracy against the uninitiated”, members of which speak in unknown language. Should we continue to build this tower, or it’s time to build a bridge for communication?

Picture: Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway (https://www.thedailybeast.com/)

The problem of science communication

The connection between science and public opinion had a problematic character during the whole history, like the biographies of Socrates, Marie Curie, or Albert Einstein. The common vision of aims for science communication are suggested as “generating public epistemic and moral trust, generating social acceptance, and enhancing democratic legitimacy” (Kappel K. and Holmen S.J., 2019). For reaching the goal of sustainability, there is a necessity of transdisciplinary research with mass media communication support (Smith, H., 2016). How to do this, if a worldwide situation is a distrust of experts in a public opinion (Rousseau, J., 2021)? It could be caused by many reasons, for example, because of a lack of “established writing pedagogies” in order of popularisation and dissemination of scientific knowledge (Negretti, R., 2022). An effective strategy to attract an attention of publicity is an emotional, or affective impact, like open letters about climate changes (Graminius, C., 2022). Another point of solution may consist in the special semantic of this communication. Ella Yonai (2020) describes an experience of presenting scientific results by physics experts to middle school students. It clearly shows an influence of a “complex scientific jargon” in this way of communication. Indeed, the government departments try to support communication scientists with society. So, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine of the USA[1] propose a complex methodology, or agenda for solving the problem of acceptance of the results of scientific research by the public sphere. The Swiss academy of science[2] are monitoring the problem of science communication and proposing the report about strong and weak points of this activity.

Modern Agora: how to set up a scientific communication in a local context?

Each separate branch of science creates its own vocabulary, methods of investigation and tools of its verification. This procedure goes as “coherence theory of truth”[3], when the complex architecture of certain science grounds on special practices of significance and meaning making. On the current stage of science and technology development such baggage of content is huge, and consequently, the impact of Anthropocene to our world is growing too. We face unpredictable challenges about our future and may find a good solution only by combining efforts and techniques of different kinds of scientific knowledge. We suggest a lack of fruitful communication and interaction not just between scientists and the public, but inside of the scientific community too. And may be the main reason for the absence of expected attention from society to scientific research is a common plurality of definitions, terms, and theories.

The Swiss National Science foundation announced an open call for grants with the aim “to foster dialogue between scientists and society”[4]. We are going to propose a vision of a possible project and are looking for partners for its preparation and realisation. If you worry about the same issues, don`t be hesitate to write to me.


References

  1. Smith, H., Suldovsky, B., Lindenfeld, L. (2016) Mass Communication Research in Sustainability Science: Moving Toward an Engaged Approach to Address Society’s Sustainability Dilemma, Mass Communication and Society, 19:5, 548-565, DOI: 10.1080/15205436.2016.1167916
  2. Graminius, C. (2022): Research Communication on Climate Change through Open Letters: Uniting Cognition, Affect and Action by Affective Alignments, Science as Culture, DOI: 10.1080/09505431.2022.2049597
  3. Rousseau, J. (2021) Challenges to Science Communication in a PostTruth World, Communicatio, 47:2, 122-140, DOI: 10.1080/02500167.2021.1959363
  4. Negretti, R., Persson, M., Sjöberg-Hawke, C. (2022): Science stories: researchers’ experiences of writing science communication and the implications for training future scientists, International Journal of Science Education, Part B, DOI: 10.1080/21548455.2022.2060530
  5. Yonai, E., Blonder, R. (2020) USE YOUR OWN WORDS! Developing science communication skills of NST experts in a guided discourse, International Journal of Science Education, Part B, 10:1, 51-76, DOI: 10.1080/21548455.2020.1719287
  6. Kappel, K. Holmen, S.J. (2019) Why Science Communication, and Does It Work? A Taxonomy of Science Communication Aims and a Survey of the Empirical Evidence. Commun. 4:55. doi: 10.3389/fcomm.2019.00055
  7. [1]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK425719/
  8. [2]https://scnat.ch/en/uuid/i/a1df2d4d-de41-5fe2-863b-31a12ed5d143-The_State_of_Science_Communication_in_Switzerland
  9. [3]https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/truth-coherence/
  10. [4]https://www.snf.ch/en/JnT2xEAERCgO8qQc/funding/science-communication/agora

AUTOR/AUTORIN: Olena Yatsenko

Olena Yatsenko is visiting reseacher at the Laboratory of Virtual Reality and robotics at the Bern University of Applied sciences and University philosophy lecturer at the National Pedagogical Drahomanov University (Kiyv, Ukraine).

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