Science So What roundtable – join in the discussion

We have previously criticised the Science: So What? So Everything campaign. We would like to see them do better at science communication, so we were pleased to get an e-mail from Frank Swain (who is behind the excellent Science Punk and has been involved in Science: So What? since late July) inviting participation in a roundtable on the campaign:

the Science So What forum is now up and running, and I’d be happy to have your input on developments…I think most everyone is aware of what I’m pushing towards in this role, but here’s the brief:

Science: So What? is a Department of Business Innovation and Skills campaign to encourage wider public engagement in science at all levels – from casual interest to education and employment opportunities – as well as promoting greater understanding of why science is so important to the UK. Science: So What? aims to bring alive the importance, relevance and interest of science to the broader population, with a particular emphasis on groups that are normally resistant or turned off by science.

The stated aims of the campaign are that the website should enable:
* an appreciation of the value of science (popularise and mainstream science)
* a sense of public ownership and pride in scientific achievements
* make the links between the taxpayers’ money and the science it funds
* a greater awareness of careers in science (and careers that require an understanding of science) raise awareness about the benefits of careers in science – for individuals, society and the economy

It’s a tall order! But that’s what makes it so exciting to work on. The old website was criticised for adopting an outdated approach to science communication that focussed too heavily on a pedagogic stance, which assumes the public needs to be educated as to why science is valuable. This model has long been retired in favour of public engagement with science, which places an emphasis on providing tools and platforms to support the public’s inherent needs.

For the relaunched site, it’s clear that we should have a lot of really strong content, the ability for people using the site to delve deeper into a particular topic, and to make more use of the huge online community of science communicators putting out really great material. In the long run, we’d like to see the SSW website not just as a destination for interesting science content (there are plenty of these already) but as a gateway to science for the general public. A good example of this is the NHS homepage – a portal to all things health related – find a dentist, quick medical advice, information on illnesses, careers, find a carer, advice on living well, etc. In a similar way, we’d like the SSW website to support people’s fledgling interest in science at all levels: find science-related events happening near them, ask a scientist a question, find experiments they can do with their children, learn about science-related careers, ask politicians about their science policy, get info on how to start a Cafe Scientifique in their area, become an empowered blogger so that they get invites to press conferences, etc. The sky is the limit, and I’m interested to hear your ideas.

Of course, all these things will take time, and right now we have to focus on getting the essentials in place – a solid website with good content to meet the key objectives. But it’s also the time to lay down the foundations of future projects so that the SSW website can grow and develop. It’s a great opportunity and we’re all working hard to make it a success, and we want you to be involved in it. So please, leave your comments and your ideas, and together we can make an awesome site.

Thank you for all your input so far, it’s really appreciated and already feeding into the website strategy. If you have any questions on what we’re doing, please drop them onto the site and we can discuss.

So – go to the forum, join in with the debate, and contribute to the development of government science communications online.

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