[ASC-list] "Science communication in the World"

Toss Gascoigne director at tossgascoigne.com.au
Mon Jun 18 07:49:50 UTC 2012


"Science communication in the World" is a new international book  
published by Springer earlier this month..

Here's an extract from the Australian chapter, which explores the  
emergence of research, training and practice in science communication  
in this country:

Every expedition that explored first the coast and then the interior  
of Australia in the
seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries included a person  
with scientific
interests. The scientists documented and charted the coastline, the  
land, the geology,
and plant and animal life in the period leading up to the first  
settlement by Europeans
in 1788 and then beyond that as the continent was explored and opened  
up by the
new settlers.

Those traditions of scientific inquiry were extended into urban life  
in the nineteenth
century by the formation of mechanics institutes, botanic gardens,  
learned
societies, museums, public libraries and universities. The formation  
of such institutions
accelerated after the 1850s, based on new wealth from the Australian  
gold
rushes and generous government support

 From the very beginning, communication about science was rooted in  
practicalities.
The demands of establishing a settlement in an environment often  
hostile to
European approaches to farming and management of the environment  
shaped the
discourse of science. It was not an enterprise conducted in a rarefied  
and scholarly atmosphere: in 1870, 60% of the membership of the Royal  
Society of New South Wales had no scientific background or involvement  
(Home 1989).

The first formal studies on topics most closely related to science  
communication began at the University of Melbourne with the  
establishment of the Department of General Science and Scientific  
Method in 1946 (coincidentally, the year that the first Ph.D. programs  
were offered in Australia).

In 1994, ASC was formed. This was an important milestone in the  
formalization of
the term ‘science communication’ and the emergence of a new  
profession. At the
time, people involved in science communication had a wide variety of  
titles and
came from different educational and disciplinary backgrounds. They  
tended to operate
in a professional vacuum because there was no place where they could  
seek advice
or discuss problems with professional colleagues, and science  
communicators felt
that lack of collegiality.

In the first 2 months after the intention to form ASC was announced,  
375 people
from across Australia demonstrated their interest in science  
communication (and
their support for the new body) by joining as foundation members. This  
was a strong
showing of support: the personal benefits were negligible, but the  
funding helped
the fledgling body to become established in September that year.


The book is edited by Bernard Schiele (Canada), Michel Claessens  
(France) and Shunke Shi (China).  Co-authors of the Australian chapter  
are Jenni Metcalfe and me.

Toss Gascoigne
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Toss Gascoigne and Associates
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CAMPBELL ACT 2612

P. 02 6249 7400
M. 0408 704 442
E. director at tossgascoigne.com.au
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ABN:  31 068 557 522
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