[ASC-list] Review finds bias in science communication

Niall Byrne niall at scienceinpublic.com.au
Thu Dec 12 11:11:17 UTC 2013


One of the authors of the Conversation story was with Friends of the Earth and was relentless in her pursuit of the head of the head of NETS communication program.

Which was a shame because:

*         he is one of this country's best science communicators - willing to try new things

*         he was one of very few public servants in the department who would go out of his way to engage with NGOs.

The NETS program was shut down last year.


Niall Byrne

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From: ASC-list [mailto:asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] On Behalf Of Toss Gascoigne
Sent: Thursday, 12 December 2013 12:23 PM
To: Dyani Lewis
Cc: Asc List
Subject: Re: [ASC-list] Review finds bias in science communication

"An independent review<http://www.industry.gov.au/industry/nanotechnology/PublicAwarenessandEngagement/Documents/ReviewPanelFinalReport.pdf> of an Australian federal government science communication initiative - made public in November - found that educational and information materials lacked balance and fairness, and primarily served a marketing or public relations function."

Well, no, not really.

The review was of the NETS-PACE program (public awareness and engagement in new and emerging technologies).  Some people expressed concern that the program was boosting NETS rather than providing neutral information, and Karen Cronin (NZ) and I were commissioned to review them.

A whole bunch of materials - brochures, pamphlets, blogs, toys, public events - was provided.  We examined about 20 of these closely, to assess if they were fair and balanced.  Some items had been specially identified by citizens with concerns.

Broadly, we found half of these identified items were fair and balanced, and an equal number of the sampled events and materials lacked balance or fairness and transparency.  On some materials the reviewers differed in their opinions.  We also found materials improved through the life of the program, as the organisers gained experience in this challenging area.

There's more, of course - the review is 36 pages long.

In terms of recommendations, it suggests  6 principles in designing future programs.  One was that "meaningful public consultation begins early in the process of considering new technologies, and not after substantive policy decisions have been made.   The public will quickly lose trust if they see the consultation is too late to allow any changes."

These recommendations are in the full review:


Toss G
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On 12/12/2013, at 7:42 AM, Dyani Lewis wrote:

An important read for all science communicators in the Conversation today:

Dyani Lewis, PhD
Freelance science journalist
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