National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science
Volume 7 No. 4
The Occasional Newsletter of the ANU/Questacon
Graduate Program in Scientific Communication
all correspondence to
Chris Bryant, email: email@example.com
or tel: (02) 6249 4815
Sue Stocklmayer email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Centre for the Public Awareness of Science tel: (02) 6279 8157
Faculty of Science fax: (02) 6249 4950
Australian National University
Canberra ACT 0200
by Chris Bryant
Even if one is supposed to be retired, one can still heave a sigh of relief at the conclusion of yet another relatively smooth academic year. Trouble is, one suspects that there is another one following close behind that may be rather more malevolent.
One of the highlights of this year was the visit of a team of scientists interested in science communication from Thailand. They actually paid – modestly – to come to CPAS and take our courses. They were with us for two months and Sue and Sharyn created a non-stop round of events for them. In amongst coursework sessions, they were dunked in the ocean, frozen on Kosciusko, exposed to feral kangaroos – you name it, they did it.
I was strangely nervous when it came to my turn to take them for ‘plain English’. It seemed to me that plain English was not what they needed, but plain Thai but they quickly put me at my ease by pointing out that the language of science was English and that Thai wasn’t really equipped to handle it. It has no punctuation, I gather, which makes rendering science into Thai peculiarly difficult.
Once over that hurdle, we had several interesting discussions. They were at particular pains to get me to distinguish between science education, public understanding of science and public awareness of science. My best answers to this stern demand for definitions are as follows.
Science Education – the formal learning of science, in schools, colleges and universities. The recipients are those who have already been admitted into science streams and are committed to the idea of science either as a career or as an interest.
Public Understanding of Science – the learning of science in informal circumstances, such as societies, public lectures or interest courses, The recipients are most often a subset of those in the science education group who are enriching their own experiences.
Public Awareness of Science – designed to empower (terrible word) the general community, especially those who are not committed to the understanding of science. It aspires to bring about an affective change in people, so that they can feel that they have a right of access to science, in the same way that they feel they have a right of access to great works of art. They may choose not to exercise that right until they perceive that they have a need to do so.
Well, that’s my first attempt at defining what we are all doing! I wouldbe most interested to have any comments – or definitions - you may care to send me.
Have a marvellous - and safe - festive season
Comment on Michel Serres
by Trevor Lewis (1988)
I've just been devouring the latest Scinapse. Of particular interest was the piece on "A Hippocratic Oath for Scientists?"
First, a little light-heartedly, I was wondering that, if there is to be a 'Hippocratic' oath for scientists it surely, then, should be named to honour a particular character. I recall that Sir Francis Bacon was very influential in his vision of science ('big' science) in the service of society for the betterment of all. So maybe here was a suitable candidate- "The Bacon Oath". But then my mind skipped a bit, and I thought that it might be confused with a much more common oath - 'And pigs might fly!' - though, of course, this is not restricted to scientists)
On a more serious note, the question of ethics in science is an issue close to my heart and one which I find that scientists are sometimes reluctant take seriously (this is of course a generalisation, and some certainly do take it very seriously). Maybe it is something that they perceive as being 'too hard'. Some see it as a threat to the way science is done; that it may curtail science in some way. Some confuse it with religion.
So there is a need to identify the ethical questions that arise in science. In the condensed version of Michel Serres address, I think that he approaches this in a very enlightening fashion. The message I gleaned was that it is not ethics on an issue by issue basis that is so important, but ethics concerning the way in which science is carried out.
I remember (partly) a quote from Thomas Huxley (the 'Devils Disciple'). Huxley campaigned against 'parsonism' and the culture of patronage in science. He established the 'profession of scientific men', as well as championing Charles Darwin and 'The Origin of the Species". He said something to the effect that truth was an important ingredient of a fair society, and that it was through scientific investigation and free communication and debate that truth could be achieved.
Now, there are some very real philosophical questions as to what truth is but put those to one side. I see there are some parallels to what Michel Serres was saying in his address. Free communication rather than commercial secrecy; the conflict between 'well done' and 'truth'.
But I feel it comes apart when, in the oath, he suggests that scientists swear "never to use my knowledge and discoveries for violence, destruction..." and the potential conflict that this has with the free communication of scientific results. Once scientific results are published and they are in the public domain, does the discoverer still have ethical/moral obligations to control the way in which the results are used? There are several instances where apparently arcane pure research has found a place in destructive technologies, which no one could have predicted when first published.
So are the scientists/authors of the work bound to intervene in the application of their research to activities that violate the oath? What are the consequences of this obligation, where individuals are not only responsible for their own research but also the research of others who utilise their research results? Could this be a disincentive to publish or restrict the free communication of results?
I think the case in which doctors take the Hippocratic Oath is somewhat more simple. Their oath dictates the way in which the relationship between the medical practitioner and the patient should be conducted. In the simplest case, there is no third party (though I agree that the family of the patient may well be the third party). With scientists, it is not just the scientist and the research that is produced. There are many unknown third parties who can pick up on the published research. And you can't guarantee that all of these third parties will have taken a scientific oath of ethics.
The Review of the Graduate Diploma
The review of the Graduate Diploma has been completed and the recommendations have passed through the Board of Studies. The complete review will be published in the New Year. Meanwhile, here are the recommendations.
I would be delighted to receive reactions from veterans.
The membership of the Review Committee was as follows:
Dr Stuart Kohlhagen, (Chair), Senior Developer, New Concepts, Questacon, National Science and Technology Centre
Ms Rebecca Dawson, current scholar, Graduate Diploma in Scientific Communication
Ms Wendy Parsons, Senior Communicator, CSIRO National Awareness
Dr Simon Torok, Editor, The Helix, CSIRO Education Programs
Em Prof Chris Bryant, Convenor, Graduate Program in Science Communication, ANU. (My role was mainly that of archival memory and dogsbody.)
Advance Notice of a Science Communication Conference
"Reaching Out to the Public’
My sojourn in Middlesbrough as part of discussion group to set this conference going seems to have paid off. I received this from Colin Wilkinson earlier this month. Will I see any of you there?
Subject: Conference on Teesside
This is an initial announcement of a conference which will take place on Teesside from 26th to 28th May 1999. The fee (including accommodation, transfers and most meals) will be somewhere between stlg 150 and 200.
The title is "Reaching out to the Public". The aim is to examine the issues associated with outreach programmes from science centres and industry. Speakers will include, among others, Professor Chris Bryant, of CPAS (Centre for the Public Appreciation (sic) of Science) at the Australian National University, Drs. Colin Johnson and Melanie Quin of Techniquest, Dr Brian Gamble of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Dr. Michel Claessens of DGXII of the European Union and various others.
On the 28th May (which is optional) there will be an exhibition of touring exhibits from (among others) SATROSPHERE in Aberdeen, the Science Line Roadshow and the Teesside Chemicals Initiative.
If you would like to make an input, or to attend, please send an email to me either
If you know of others who would be interested in this conference, please forward this email to them. (If you have received this email as a forward more than once, I'm sorry)
The conference is being organised by CETPASE (Centre for the Promotion of Awareness of Science and Engineering) at the University of Teesside, of which I am Operations Director. Partial sponsorship has been kindly provided by ICI Technology, and other sponsors are being actively sought.
I shall look forward to hearing from you soon. The official Fliers will be going out in January.
Colin M. Wilkinson
The following short article was taken from SCAN, the newsletter of COPUS (No 48 November 1998). Does it say anything of value? I am hard put to work out just what it means and how it advances the cause!
The PUS movement needs better audience targeting, cooperation between organisations and greater strategic direction.
These were the principal findings of a new report SWOTing PUS, based on a session at the 1998 Science Communicators’ Forum in Cardiff. Members of the Forum were asked to identify the aims of the PUS movement. They in turn SWOTed PUS, identifying the movement’s current Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities it might exploit and the Threats it faced.
The Forum hoped to achieve better audience targeting, improve accessibility, reach people and build a higher profile through ‘enhanced marketing’. It sought to achieve dialogue to allow people to make informed choices and create a ‘bolshie, articulate electorate’ Finally it wanted science to get positive publicity and a positive image.
The funding organisations hoped to achieve better understanding of each other, by gaining a better knowledge of what was already happening and of other organisations’ strategic aims. They sought to agree on common ground by settling on a core definition of PUS and by developing robust criteria and methods to evaluate PUS activity. Participants wished to share best practice, by identifying successes and learning points, finding opportunities to work together.
The forum wanted to avoid insensitivity to audiences, on the other hand it worried about making science seem trivial. Also, it was concerned by the PUS movement’s lack of strategic direction, the dominance of ‘short termism’ and a ‘lack of coordination between different organisations trying to achieve the same aims.’
While the organisations wished to avoid creating new bureaucratic structures, they recognised the dangers of oversimplifying and overcomplicating the issues and exhorted themselves to avoid defensivness, selfishness and resistance to change.
In subsequent feedback participants said they welcomed the opportunity to express views and were heartenedby the emerging consensus. Now structures have to be agreed within which it can happen.
The exercise was organised by Frank Burnet (University of the West of England), Ben Johnson (Graphic Science) and David Steven (River Path Associates).
The 1998 Scholars Research Projects
The following is a list of the research projects undertaken by the 1998 Scholars. If anyone would like to know more about a project, contact me, Judy, Sue or Ilze and we will pass the message on.
Tsuey Cham Do source attributes influence the persuasiveness of a message?
Cindy Chambers Preference of visitors for touchscreens or hard copy text panels in an exhibition, based on age.
Rebecca Dawson Are targeted messages on ranger guided walks improving environments awareness and environmental science understanding of visitors?
Toni Domaschenz A comparison of attitudes, use and knowledge of water resources in two eastern Australian communities.
Regan Forrest Factors influencing subject and career choices of science and engineering students at the Australian National University
Angelique Hutchison Community knowledge of and attitude towards renewable energy
Greg Manning The influence of presenter attire on audience enjoyment of science shows
Catherine McKay The influence of scientific language on public interest and understanding of science journalism in newspapers
Bianca Nogrady Jargon in Science writing: does it improve credibility but reduce reader comprehension?
Meg Ogle-Mannering Advertising abundance and the image of science in Science, Arts and Business magazines
Jane Olliff The effectiveness of an interactive game on memory recall of scientific information in different aged primary children
Rebecca Short Does presentation context affect students' perception of interactive science?
Rebecca Sibberas Effectiveness of health care brochures as a communication tool
John Smith People's science background and their perception of scientists in Far Side cartoons
Emily Taylor Comparison of children's fact recall and enjoyment of live and videoed science shows
Joanne Codling’s (1989) Awfully Big Adventure
Hi Chris, NEWS for you (and Scinapse too)!
My big break.……….
I've been signed up as host for a new science shows for kids (after school). It'll probably be on Channel nine later next year. We start filming in a couple of months. I can't say a lot at the moment. TV production companies get very possessive about their plans.
Cool huh! I might get famous. (At least among the under ten set). And I'm excited. YYAAAAYYYYY!
NOW - RE NAME CHANGE: Joanne Codling ---> Joanne Nova.
Signing TV contracts has clearly gone to my head. I've decided to use a stage name...(oh please - no groans - I know it sounds like I have delusions of grandeur. I do. But this is my one and only chance to choose a name I like. Besides, I got married this year and lots of women change their names when they get married!
I got bored with always spelling 'Codling', and tired of how people still got it wrong. Cooling, Godling, Colding, Golding, Quodling, etc, etc. Codling is unique, which is good, but it’s hardly a name that has stick power. Its memorable like a wet Tuesday afternoon at Woolies. [Although Codling apparently came from 'coeur de lion' - the French for 'heart of the lion'. It lost something in the translation]. But 'Codling' doesn't make you think of a lion-heart, it smacks of an English fish or a moth that infects apples. 'Lion heart' is a name I could get excited about (so I even considered using it), but in the end I decided on 'Nova'. It’s short. Not too presumptuous. And it means NEW and could be half of super-nova. At least 'new' is kind of what I'm doing. New information. So it felt like a good fit.
Anyway, You may hear it on the radio or TV soon, so I thought I'd let you know first.
'Codling' is still my surname to friends and for the bank (just in case you want to send me a cheque for Christmas), but for business I'll be Joanne Nova.
Kinda rolls off the tongue hey?
Joanne Codling PO Box 114,
Ph/Fax (02) 6249 8059 Australian National
Mobile (015) 816 194 University ACT 2601 (NOT 0200)
Words fascinate me and your email immediately sent me off to the New Shorter Oxford. I learned that ‘Codling’ does indeed derive from the Anglo-Norman ‘quer de lion’ meaning lion-heart. But the name was applied to a green cooking apple of long tapering shape, or the tree bearing this apple. It was later also used for any unripe apple, or a raw youth. I can see why you wanted to get rid of that one.
Nova is equally interesting. Latin feminine singular of ‘novus’, meaning ‘new’ (all right so far) it was used in the 17th century for a large roll of tobacco. It is now taken to mean a star whose brightness suddenly increases by several magnitudes (that’s fine) with violent ejections of gaseous material. Bit of a worry, I’d have thought!
Another winner! This one is by Regan Forrest and is a parody of the song by Charmaine, from the Priscilla soundtrack, sung by Scholars with great élan and éclat at the SQSC Valedictory Dinner 1998. A mystery prize will be winging its way to her as soon as I get a reliable address!
I’VE BEEN TO PARADISE
From Michael Harvey (1992)
These are neat puzzles that Justin and Lucy at the Questacon Maths Centre came across recently - you have to turn the equations into limericks...
And the answers are...
A dozen, a gross and a score
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