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School of Communications


Trends in Science Communication: study for the PLACES FP7 project for ECSITE

The study of trends in science communication will be based on data from the sources indicated in the Call for Tender, including abstracts of presentations at ECSITE conferences, 2007-2012, content of EUSEA annual meetings, material collected from PLACES City Partnerships on local science communication actors, material from PLACES regional workshops organised by ERRIN. Further data will be collected from the Books of Abstracts of the 2010 and 2012 international conferences on Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST) and from a review of recent academic literature dealing with trends in science communication and policy proposals for national and institutional science communication programmes. This is a content analysis coding for geographic, social, political and other criteria. (Brian Trench, Francesca Camilli and Padraig Murphy)

Communicating Responsible Research and Innovation-- steps towards future environmental science and public engagement.

PhD question: To track the Government/stakeholder communication processes and interactions for science, technology and innovation and public engagement from the early 2000s during Ireland's turn toward a 'bioeconomy' to now; also develop best international practice of communication and dialogue between EPA STRIVE scientists and targeted publics for current and future emerging biotechnologies, with particular emphasis on public conflict. Data and criteria will be assessed qualitatively and quantitatively, using contemporary STS methods.

RQ1. What key points in recent Irish 21st century 'turn to science' gave opportunities for public engagement with environment, science and society? eg Biotechninfo, GM food, nanotechnology, climate change as case studies. Were the opportunities utilised effectively and why/why not? Comprehensive sociological and historical of this period drawing from Science Technology Studies methodologies for science/society relationships and trends in recent history.

RQ2 What is the current situation, post-economic crisis, and EPA role? Observatory and facilitation of current Irish/international context for so-called 'responsible research and innovation' (RRI) from green economy and at least one case study, a current development ongoing eg GM potato in 'real-time'. What future strategies can the EPA -- combined with policymakers with separate powers - employ for a risk communication /public engagement template eg for fracking, cleantech, energy, incinerators, septic tanks etc?

RQ3 EPA scientist communication strategies -- what guidelines can be used for the EPA -- Report and guidelines for risk communication engagement -- communication / social media plan for various technologies eg social mediated debates #GMpotato, #fracking, #climatechange etc to aid future emerging science policy in Ireland? -- communication models and strategies (including 'traditional' and 'social media)as output. (Stephen Hughes)

Climate Change and Sustainability: A critical analysis of public participation in the transition to sustainability

This project investigates public participation in the transition to a sustainable future using public discourse and engagement with climate change as a paradigmatic case study. The research examines who is the ‘public’ in the so-called public conversation about climate change and in doing so, whose interests make up the ‘national’ in the national narrative for future sustainability. The aim of the research is to identify opportunities for improving the process of climate change communication and so facilitate wider public participation with climate change which is the basis of future sustainability. (Brenda McNally)

Upstream engagement with emerging sustainable technologies: the design of an effective  communication model -A case study of Cleantech Innovation stakeholders

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (The Brundtland Report, 1987). Creating a green, sustainable future isn’t solely about technologies and innovations but also human dimensions. But what are the key factors in the social dimensions and how could engineers, social scientists and relevant stakeholders work together effectively to achieve a common future of sustainability without conflicting each other’s agendas?  

A collaborative and multidisciplinary project between the natural sciences and social & humanity sciences faculties at Dublin City University (DCU) is formed, with the research focus on how to engage stakeholders in sustainable development by taking a case study-Ireland’s An tSli Ghlas ‘The Green Way’, a green economic corridor initiated by an alliance of businesses, academic institutions and local authorities.  

In this research, questions on the macro-meso-micro levels regarding sustainable development are formulated. Discourse of sustainable development on the global level will be investigated by looking at the communication activities that has already been taken place such as WSSD, COP summits and etc., in order to draw up an overview on the communication processes, and therefore pinpoint the underlying communication problems from a holistic view. On the meso level with the SD case study, research will be carried out on various stakeholders regarding the barriers and opportunities in the engagement process, in order to suggest/propose several criteria for effective communication strategies (especially focused on social media communication strategies) for multi-disciplinary communication. On the micro level, the research will also address individuals’/publics’ awareness of SD/ecological problems and how sustainable communication is effective people’s lives.

Regarding research methodology, a mix of qualitative and quantitative research methodologies will be applied to investigate the research questions. The end results will contribute to cross-domain in the academia and communication practices for various stakeholders such as actors in ‘The Green Way’, environmental policy makers, the energy sector, energy companies, relevant industries, and also the general public. (Chao-Ping (Pat) Hong)

#GM potato

The Celsius interdisciplinary research group at DCU propose an action research project that will facilitate public debate and dialogue between stakeholders involved in both the proposal of, and resistance to, the GM potato, as well as the wider public. #GMpotato the preliminary stages of work leading to consultancy services for other  socioscientific flashpoints such as ‘fracking’ and nuclear  energy. The #GMpotato project will use the latest in communication research and practice in deliberative, democratic processes to allow public response to controversial technologies. The ultimate aim is that the process will inform more socially-sensitive policy and regulation on genetically modified organisms and future farming practice in Ireland.

It is envisioned that #GMpotato will be in place from the beginning of this new debate, and will act as an observatory as well as a forum for discussion. The potato has an iconic place in Irish history; Celsius members have analysed cultural memories of famine, mediated through film and visual culture, evocations of land and ties to place. We have also studied the coverage of controversial scientific topics in the media, as well as the origins of social movements and framing effects as a type of sub-politics within media and society. There is growing research literature that suggests that, where there are significant flashpoints with clashing worldviews and emerging scientific applications (eg so-called ‘sociotechnical’ issues such as nanotechnology, stem cell research, incinerators and ‘fracking’), the privileging of scientific information or explanation alone will not settle debate. Often there are wider issues of trust, local knowledge and cultural response to perceived threat or authority (science studies from scholars  such as Alan Irwin and Brian Wynne, and the ‘risk society’ idea of Ulrich Beck, demonstrate the clear necessity to explore local knowledge production on risk and sociotechnical issues).

Our collaborative partners from the School of Law and Government in DCU will contribute to the monitoring of the online ‘Community of Inquiry’ process, offering guidance and support on optimising the structure as a deliberative, quasi-legal, decision-making tool that gathers elements of social media, but also presents balanced, considered opinion. The Techspectations team from DCU Business School will use the latest e-democratic and social media techniques to both organise a virtual citizens’ panel and facilitate a Twitter/ Facebook campaign. (Padraig Murphy)

Attitudes to radiation and radon

Two separate studies of public understanding of and engagement with radiation and radon, commissioned by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland.

Projects with which Celsius members are involved include:

PERARES – Public engagement with research and research engagement with society

This EU-funded project (2010-14) is based mainly on a network of science shops in Europe and will involve cross-country initiatives on public engagement with a range of scientific topics, aiming to produce toolkits and protocols for successful implementation of such initiatives and for their evaluation. The project has 30 partners in 15 countries. (Brian Trench, Pádraig Murphy)

DCU Research Fellowship on Science Futures

This fellowship (2010-11) funds investigation of various approaches to ‘anticipatory science governance’. The project will look at how society imagines future ecological issues and sustainable science, from literary representations to policy 'foresighting' exercises. It will develop and pilot a toolkit of procedures for inclusive, participatory assessment of emerging sciences. (Pádraig Murphy, Brian Trench)

Audio-Visual Science audiences (AVSA)

Funded for two years (2008-10) under the EU’s Science in Society programme, this project has five partners in Germany, Finland, Greece, Bulgaria and Ireland, who are analysing by various means the audience reception of science programmes on radio and television. The analysis covers broadcast science in 12 countries and, in early 2010, is concluding focus-group research with various audiences. The project will end in April 2010. (Yvonne Cunningham, Brian Trench)

Environmental, Health and Social Issues in Nanotechnology

Funded for two years (2007-2009) under the Environmental Protection Agency’s STRIVE programme, this post-doctoral fellowship examined public discourses about nanotechnology and its risks and exploring techniques for public engagement with nanotechnology. The final report is due for completion in April 2010. (Pádraig Murphy, Brian Trench)

Celebrity scientists

This PhD project, which is due to conclude in 2010, represents an innovative study of some well-known public scientists and science popularisers as ‘celebrities’, thus calling on the rapidly expanding field of celebrity studies and illustrating an under-studied aspect of the social recontextualisation of science. (Declan Fahy, Helena Sheehan)

Evaluating Informal Science Education

This PhD project is funded for three years (2008-10) by the Biomedical Diagnostics Institute (BDI) and is developing and applying evaluation models to selected education and outreach activities of the BDI, particularly those targeting primary school pupils. (Diana Kaiser, Emma O’Brien, Richard O’Kennedy)

Communication training of scientists

Through participation in the EU-funded project, ESConet, and independently, Celsius members design and deliver training modules for research scientists in various aspects of public

communication, including dialogue, risk communication, and controversy, as well as the more usual media skills of interviews and press releases. (Declan Fahy, Pádraig Murphy, Brian Trench)

Ethical issues in new diagnostics

This project is funded by Science Foundation Ireland through the Biomedical Diagnostics Institute. Point-of-care diagnostic devices raise a number of ethical issues. A PhD project focuses on the impact of such devices on healthcare and in particular on the balance between professional responsibility and individualistic paradigms. (Dónal O’Mathúna)

Film and ethical issues with nanotechnology

This project examines how ethical issues in nanotechnology are portrayed in film and science fiction. The potential impact of these narratives on the ethical issues is being explored, and how the films work or do not work as ‘teacherly texts’. (Dónal O’Mathúna, Pat Brereton)