Science Communicators as Thermostats

Guest post by John Raynor

Question: Why are Science Communicators like Thermostats?

Answer: Because they are both regulators

Science communicators regulate the exchange of scientific information within a community.  A thermostat regulates the temperature within an oven.

We want to affect a community, a network, a society or an audience.  The thermostat affects an oven.  We have means to do it: media, dialogue processes, social networks or presentations. The oven has a heating element.  We have a plan about what we want to share and desired outcomes.  A stove has a dial to set the desired temperature.  We measure or evaluate the actual outcomes and effects upon our community.   The oven has a thermometer.  We close the feedback loop by comparing the actual outcomes with the desired outcomes. The thermostat compares the actual temperature with the desired temperature.  Based on this comparison we modify our inputs so that eventually the desired and actual outcomes match each other, as also happens with the oven.   The science communicator manages the commination system while the thermostat regulates the oven.  These examples are part of the broad interdisciplinary field known as cybernetics. Continue reading

Non-traditional visualisations

Our recent word cloud of the Australian Science Communicators’ Conference Tweets has raised a question: what is the role of non-traditional visualisations in modern science communication?

We all know the value of graphs and maps, but what can we achieve with other visualisations, such as word clouds, network charts, flow charts and so on?  What about online only motion charts, as seen in Gapminder?

What do you like about these forms? What don’t you like? Does a word cloud or an online only motion chart have a role in an academic journal article? What are your favourite new forms of visualisation? Where do you see the future in visualisation?

Taking science to the people is key

Sue Stocklmayer

The head of the nation’s oldest academic science communication centre has welcomed a new national report calling for a greater emphasis on making science relevant to more Australians.

The Inspiring Australia report on communicating science in Australia was released by the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, at The Australian National University on the 8th of February 2010.

Associate Professor Sue Stocklmayer is Director of the Centre for the Public Awareness of Science (CPAS) at ANU. Founded in 1996, CPAS is the oldest continuing centre in Australia focusing on education and research around science communication.

“We strongly support the recommendations of the Inspiring Australia report, as well as applauding its motivating spirit,” Associate Professor Stocklmayer said. “There is no denying that science is playing a key role in some of the defining issues of our time: climate change, water and food security, and pandemic responses, to name a few. So it’s absolutely vital that there is a broad and ongoing conversation in the Australian community about scientific research and its outcomes.”

Continue reading