The Evolution of Science Communication Research in Australia
The strength of science communication in Australia has until now been in practice rather than theory, driven by a demand for practical solutions to problems. Science communicators are resourceful in devising solutions, either adapting international experience to suit local circumstances or inventing their own. The theoretical study of science communication in Australia has been slower to develop. Only recently has Australia recognized that many science-based issues require a more considered approach, in which practical actions are governed by a deeper theoretical understanding. Prior to 1990, the limited number of university departments researching science communication-related issues worked principally from a social sciences perspective. Based in units with names such as ‘History and Philosophy of Science’, they had little to do with practitioners in science communication. The practitioners usually worked for research organizations, science centers and museums, and came from a wide variety of disciplinary backgrounds. They performed a range of tasks and the titles of their positions varied widely. There were no established training programs, and the role of ‘science communicator’ was only beginning to be defined. Dialog between theoreticians and practitioners was virtually non-existent. Since the 1990s, the practice of science communication has become more professional through the development of Australian Science Communicators, the consolidation of three centers for training science communicators, and an increase in academic research into science communication. Academic research into science communication currently takes a mostly multidisciplinary approach and has moved away from a deficit model focus to one that is more participatory. This may at least partly explain the closer links emerging between researchers and practitioners.
KeywordsScience communication Engagement Research Public communication of science and technology Australia Australian Science Communicators Science communication courses.
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