Sunday, 22 April 2012

Past and the Future

The history of the editorship of the journal Public Understanding of Science was the focus of a special panel at the 2012 convention of the International Network on Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST) 2012 convention in Florence this week.
Our guest blogger Jane Gregory continues her earlier post with this report on a special session at the convention:
Past and present editors of the PUSJohn Durant, Bruce Lewenstein, Edna Einsiedel and Martin Bauer came on stage in the main auditorium to talk about the 20 years of the journal. Suzanne de Cheveigne took the chair, and started the event by commenting on the row of green journals that looks good in her office. She noted how, among the plethora of media in which we do our work, journals remain important for our academic work.
John Durant of MIT spoke first, noting that the journal is old enough to have a history that follows trends in our field. He situated PUS research as a second or possibly third order subject, relating as it does not only to science and to society and their relationship, but also to media studies, communication studies and a number of branches of the social sciences, and then to the wide range of practices that sit under our umbrella. Durant argued that a field is healthiest when it retains and fosters close links between theory and practice.
Alongside the descriptive/analytical and evaluative studies published in PUS over the years, there have been important papers problematising the notion of PUS. These papers, John argued, are foundational. But the conception of the ‘problem’ has changed over the years, with the classic description being of an evolution from deficit to dialogue. John drew on the US situation to discuss a further ‘cultural model’ of science in which science emerges in scattered public places such as models, magazines, festivals, cafes, storytelling, stand-up, and new-wave science radio. John recognised the challenges of researching this diversity and stressed that this is one reason why PSCT as a field needs to hold research and practice together.
The next editor, and next at the podium, was Bruce Lewenstein of Cornell University. Lewenstein surveyed the models of PUS – or PEST, PCST or PLUS – and considered the precursor sites, such as the magazine Daedalus and the major science weeklies that have considered PUS issues since the 1940s. Lewenstein also considered the range of ‘sister’ journals such as Science Communication, as well as the parallel literature on science education, formal and informal. He brought the story up to date by considering the prospects of new media and assessing the scope for widening the range of forms of literature, at different speeds and reaching a broader and more diverse audiences, including policymakers and practitioners.   
Editor number 3, Edna Einsiedel of the University of Calgary, showed how during the lifetime of the PUS journal, many other journals have appeared covering various patches of our field. Einsiedel argued for more attention to specific publics, rather than the public in general, and also reminded us that alongside the ‘big’ technologies that attract most of the research money there are many mundane technologies that contribute just as much to the framing of everyday experience of science and technology.
The present editor Martin Bauer asked what a journal can contribute to the technoscientific project. The concerns about the science-society relationship have mobilised resources for actions, such as science communication events, and also for a ‘crew’ for this expedition: not just practitioners of science communication but also scrutineers and critics. The mass media play a crucial role here, which is why media studies are important. The journal, Bauer argued, provides a reflective forum which encourages critical thinking, records empirical results, and links to social analysis.
The journal is publishing around 70 papers a year and has a rejection rate of just over 60%. The space for publishing has grown as has the number of issues. Bauer’s goals for the journal in the coming years are to globalise the coverage, in terms of topics and issues, and to internationalise the authorship. He also is aiming to reduce the time to publication from 12 months to 6 months. Bauer thanked the authors of PUS for their continued commitment, as well as acknowledging the work of referees in the peer review process. The readers complete the process, carrying the results of others’ research into their research and teaching.
Discussion in the hall addressed the problems of embracing new media and getting the results of scholarship to places where it can make a difference, while at the same time meeting the academic criteria by which careers thrive or fail.  
Pouring out into a rare burst of sunshine, the conference then headed for a palace in the heart of old Florence, where delegates enjoyed Tuscan delicacies amid the frescoes and marble.  

No comments:

Post a Comment