Knowing me, knowing you…

Research

Time

Friday 24 February
10:35am

Location

Boardroom

Speaker

Miriam Sullivan

Lecturer, Science Communication

School of Animal Biology, The University of Western Australia

Co-authors

Anna Carr

University of Western Australia

Ann Grand

Lecturer, Science Communication

School of Animal Biology, The University of Western Australia

Abstract

Scientists are increasingly playing a pivotal role in public engagement with science, and indeed many believe it is their responsibility and even moral duty to engage with non-specialist audiences. For engagement to be effective and efficient, it is essential that scientists understand their audiences, both what they know about science and their attitudes to science.

First, we asked research scientists to predict what percentage of people would give the correct answer to a range of questions testing factual scientific knowledge. Our results indicate that overall, scientists are unaware of the actual level of public scientific knowledge and for the most part rely on guesswork.

Second, we asked a sub-set of scientists (chemists) to predict people’s responses to a series of questions on public attitudes to chemistry; respondents consistently underestimated public interest and the positivity of their attitudes to science. We also looked at researchers’ perceptions of the barriers to undertaking public engagement and what style of public engagement activities they took part in.

‘Know thyself’ has been a central concept of philosophy since the days of the Ancient Greeks; those who ‘know me’ well understand that ‘knowing you’ requires us to constantly revise our perceptions. Improving scientists’ knowledge of their publics could help remove one of the barriers to effective public engagement.

Biographies
Anna Carr has recently completed her Honours research dissertation in Science Communication at the University of Western Australia. Anna graduated from UWA in 2015 with a joint major in Physiology and Science Communication.

Ann Grand is a Lecturer in Science Communication at the University of Western Australia. Her research explores researchers’ practice in digital engagement and how digital technologies can be used to mediate interaction and influence and extend opportunities for participation and collaboration.

Miriam Sullivan is the other lecturer in Science Communication at the University of Western Australia. She coordinates postgraduate study on science communication theory and her own research looks at how science communication is becoming professionalised.