December 17, 2013, by Brigitte Nerlich

Making science public blog posts in 2013 – an overview

IMG_6580This is now our second year of blogging at Making Science Public. Just like at the end of the previous year, I want to provide an overview of what we have done, what we have covered, and what the highlights of our blogging activities have been.

Launch and SiP

There were two major events that punctuated our MakingSciPub year:

(1) The official launch of the programme in February 2013 (with a post summarizing the key note speech by Ulrike Felt and two posts by Bev and Alex on the debate entitled ‘The privatisation of science is not in the public interest’).

(2) The organization of the Science in Public (SiP) conference in July 2013, from the call for papers to the publication of the proceedings.

Visit by Jeff Tamblyn

In between these two events, we also hosted one of our Honorary Associates, Jeff Tamblyn, watched his acclaimed film, Kansas vs Darwin, and encouraged him to join our blogging team with two posts on the mundane activities of science and the secret of ‘not doing’. The film made Warren reflect on empty chairs, creationism and climate change or who debates, or is allowed to debate, what with whom.


Blog posts this year covered mainly climate change (Warren and Brigitte), science communication (Brigitte), and what one may call the history of science writing (Brigitte).

Brigitte also wrote a post trying to explain what the whole MakingSciPub blog was about.

Climate change

Warren began his blogging year with a reflection on the fall-out from Hurricane Sandy which had hit New York the autumn before and what this meant for public understanding of science and weather. Warren explored this topic further in the context of the still rumbling climategate affair. Several posts on climate skepticism elicited lively responses, such as this one on the use of the term deniers and the closing down of the debate, this one on families of scepticism, even more so this one asking the provocative question as to whether climate sceptics are champions of real science, and most of all a comment piece on a controversial article entitled the ‘subterranean war on science’. Warren also critically assessed a famous metaphor used to communicate the rise of greenhouse gas emissions and their impact on the climate, namely the Hiroshima bomb metaphor. He also wrote posts on issues related to the IPCC and climate sensitivity, climate change as a global and local issue, and climate change and targetism.

Brigitte explored various aspects of climate change, such as extreme weather in the media (and here), the strategic use of ‘alarmism’ in climate change debates, public understanding of climate change and the deficit fallacy, adaptation and mitigation in the media, geoengineering, the thorny question of consensus, and so on. Most of these posts use novel empirical data to support claims being made about these topics.

Science Communication

The year started with Brigitte reflecting on a science communication affair that had caused a twitterstorm at the end of 2012, namely the so-called Cox-Ince affair about science, expertise, evidence and opinion. This was followed by a report on a lecture on science communication given by one of the most successful science video makers, Brady Haran. One post was more historical in nature and reflected on what science communication could learn from the sociologist Gabriel Tarde. One post reported on Brigitte’s participation in an event on science communication, where she talked about bridging theory and practice. She followed this up with posts on an asset-based model of science communication, on the importance of colour in science communication, and on public engagement and Prussian forestry. She contributed a post to the British Science Association blog on the changing face of science communication. At the beginning of the year she also contributed a post on risk communicaiton and l’Aquila to the magazine I, Science.

History of science writing

Brigitte wrote two blog posts about books by Jacob Bronowski, one on the values of science as a cultural institution, the other on the role of metaphors within science as a cultural institution. Another post dealt with science as public and consensible knowledge, on the basis of a discussion of three ‘old’ books by Ziman, Cromer and Wolpert. And yet another post dealt with the issue of scholarship in the modern university system, based on a discussion of Boyer’s ‘old’ model of scholarship. Brigitte’s final post of the year was devoted to C. H. Waddington’s book Tools for Thought, tools that we desperately need to understand an ever more complex physical and social man-made world (reposted on LSE Impact of Social Sciences blog). All these books were written by active scientists trying to share their understanding of how science and scientists work, and how they try to understand how the world works; and they all tried to do this in a “reasonably simple language” (Waddington) so as to be accessible to interested lay readers and engage them with science as a process.

Other topics

Brigitte wrote some more incidental posts about the tower of Babel beginning to be built around the world knowledge, on wonder, on antibiotic resistance, on Hadfield’s images of our planet from the ISS, on epigenetics, on responsible innovation and the invisible hand process, on making science public as a ‘snowclone’ [you’ll just have to click through to see what that means!], on kickstarters, on 4D printing, on the Zombie comet Ison, on science, politics and certainty and why scientists may be reluctant to join the game of giving scientific advice. Prompted by the work of Alison, Sujatha and Bev, she explored the linguistic patterns behind words like ‘public’ and ‘citizen’. And prompted by the work of Sujatha, she explored responsive research.

Other programme people

There were of course also other blog posts from our programme, one by Sujatha and Warren on the whole programme, two by Adam on food waste and on ‘becoming’ Tom Good, and another one on cricket, one by Alex on the question as to whether there is something dehumanizing about science, two by Alison about ‘which publics, when?’ (and here) (plus one by Bev on citizens and publics), one by Bev on ethical surveillance, and one by John on neoliberalism,

Guest posts and reposted posts

There were also a number of guest blog posts, one by Greg Hollin on Asda and mental health, one by Luke Collins on reader comments and deliberative democracy, one by Adam Burgess on competitive risk promotion, one by Ben Pile on climate change, which caused quite a comment storm and was followed by a rebuttal by Dana Nuccitelli.

Mike Hulme, an Honorary Associate of our programme, wrote a post about what scientists and citizens may expect of each other.

Another of our Honorary Associates, Phil Moriarty, wrote several posts that were reposted on our blog. One on being a video scientist, and one about his experiences at Westminster – and whether science and politics can ever speak the same language. This was followed by a guest blog by his colleague Clare Burrage who also talked about her experiences of the Royal Society-MP-pairing scheme.

We reposted an interesting post by Alasdair Taylor on various lists of advice relating to doing/understanding science, politics and publics.


And amongst all the posts this year there is also an anthology of blog posts covering the year before.

Looking forward to a new blogging year and I hope you’ll enjoy it! See you in 2014!


Image: Wollaton Park, Nottingham

Posted in Personal Reflectionpublic engagement with sciencepublicsScience CommunicationUncategorized