In search of the Final Frontier — Science Communication, Where Next?

Damon Reid
Apr 30 · 3 min read

Science used to be a mystery to me, I was aware of it being something to understand, gain knowledge of the world around us, trouble was, back in 1982, I didn’t understand it. I could get with David Attenborough and his journeys around the world, studying Life On Earth, but I couldn’t relate to the science boffins with their bubbling beakers, microscopes and exploding chemicals. I had my “bubbling beaker” experience during my first year biology class when my science partner Richard Frith thought it would be a great idea pick his nose and see how well his snot boiled. That pretty much ruined it for me, no knowledge gained there, just further years of fooling around in class. When my 3rd year options came along, I plumbed for the arts as science eluded me, no matter how hard I tried.

One aspect which sparked my interest though, was StarTrek which has embodied my outlook on life and work until this day. Whilst it has its flaws, its 50 year long creation of series and (sometimes questionable) films has been used by scientists in order to explain their work to the public. As well as introducing imaginary technologies that have come to real life, mobile phones, voice activated devices, even transparent aluminium Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (ST IV, 1984) is able to be constructed today. (Allgaier, 2016).

As Miah puts it in his 4th model of science communication, those who consider what kind of life is worth living, may aspire to look beyond science fact and be open to the possibilities science in the future hold, through the medium of science fiction in film or literature. (Miah, 2017)

So how far have we come with Science communication? And what is the future? Social media has enabled the mobilisation of the public in science endeavors. Bringing closer the relationship between science and their everyday lives. Citizen science as its called, using social media, encourages masses of people to perform simple scientific tasks for the purpose of holistic research, whilst also promoting it and the effect it has on improving our way of life. The main issue with this is that in order for the goals of this type of research to be successful, the erstwhile volunteers must keep working!(Kulczycki 2013).

I believe, it’s through greater involvement with universities, local authorities, community arts groups, and arts funding bodies that such impetus can be maintained.

Galaxy Zoo, a Citizen Science portal that invites members of the public to classify the morphological aspects of galaxies to help with scientific research

In terms of the future I believe that technology that puts the human body at the centre of all remote interaction is the key to bringing the public closer to developing a cognitive relationship with science.

VR, AR, and wearable nanotechnologies are fast emerging where users can see, touch and smell an environment or the emotions and empathy of others from potentially all over the world. (Maragiannis, Pitsillides, Jefferies, Boddington, 2016).

Beyond wearables, there could be nanotechnologies that are embedded in the brain directly interfacing with the visual cortex.

But at the same time there are many ethical aspects to consider when merging the real and virtual world. (Miah, 2017; Spence, 2008). So in conclusion, the future of science communication isn’t too bad at all.

References

Allgaier (2016) “ Ready To Beam Up “ : Star Trek and its interactions with science, research and technology, Cologne, Germany

Kulczycki, E. (2013) Transformation of Science Communication in the Age of Social Media. Poznań, Poland.

Maragiannis, Pitsillides, Jefferies, Boddington, (2016) Can non-anthropocentric relationships lead to true intimacy with technology? Paper presented at the ISEA Conference, Hong Kong

Miah, A. (2017). Nanoethics, Science Communication, and a Fourth Model for Public Engagement. NanoEthics, 11(2), 139–152.

Spence, EH. (2008). Meta Ethics for the Metaverse: The Ethics of Virtual Worlds, Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia.