Digging Deep into Stories in Science Communication

This book review was first published in SciComm Book reviews for the Public Understanding of Science Blog. It is reposted here with permission. The official print version is also now available here. I reviewed two books: Bloomfield, E. F. (2024). Science v. Story: Narrative Strategies for Science Communicators. University of California Press. Seethaler, S. L. (2024). Beyond …

Responsible AI to the max: Meet Goody-2

This is not a real blog post. I just needed to mark the advent of a thought-provoking and funny, yes funny, AI, namely Goody-2 (and my brain always adds ‘shoes’….). Finding Goody-2 A couple of days ago, I saw this tweet by Melanie Mitchell, a complexity scientist and expert on AI, which made me curious. …

Making science public 2023: End-of-year round up of blog posts

The year 2023 began with a bang. Suddenly there was a new form of ‘artificial intelligence’, and by ‘new’ I mean a form of AI that even I could use and vaguely understand. There was, it seems, some monstrous machine (called LLM) gobbling up everything we have ever produced in science, literature and art and …

Science and trust – the sequel

In 2018 a new ‘International Science Council’ (ICS) was established and I wrote a blog post in which I critically dissected the announcement of this launch. I tried to show that this announcement seemed to perpetuate a series of misconceptions relating to science and trust. At the end of October 2023, the ISC Centre for …

Metaphors in science communication: Hits and misses

At the beginning of August, various scientific announcements whizzed past me on Twitter. First, a new room-temperature super-conductor (LK-99 for short), which I just dismissed in my head as hype*, then a new pill that cured cancer, which sounded a bit more plausible. In news coverage of both announcements, the phrase ‘holy grail’ came up, …

Synthetic embryos: Science, communication, clarification

Earlier in the month (June, 2023) I saw some headlines saying things like “Scientists say first synthetic human ’embryo’ created” or “First reported synthetic human embryo sparks ethical concerns, creates questions” or “Synthetic human embryos created for first time using no eggs or sperm”. These headlines appeared soon after an exclusive article on the matter …

Can metaphors hinder scientific progress?

This is a guest post by Jack Morgan Jones. He is a postgraduate researcher at the University of Manchester’s Philosophy Department with an interest in truth and practical rationality, as well as agency and constructivism. *** It’s readily acknowledged that metaphors can help an educated public better understand a scientist’s technical work. But questioning the …

Gene drive communication: On bombs and bullets

In a recent article for Scientific American, the zoologist and author of a recent book on the history of genetic engineering, Matthew Cobb, lays out the pros and cons of ‘gene drive’. Gene drive is a new genetic technology that could be used to wipe out whole species of insects that transmit, for example, malaria. …

Science, communication, politics and power

I haven’t written about science communication for a while. It’s a thorny subject. But a few days ago, Ken Rice posted some musings on science communication which made me think. He argues that when ‘we’ (I suppose he means individuals or nations or indeed policy makers) don’t “deal with various societal problems as well as …

Marianne North: On the trail of a Victorian painter and adventurer

A while ago, my husband listened, rather by chance, to Thought for the Day, where Rev Marie-Elsa Bragg mentioned a book called ‘A Vision of Eden’ by Marianne North (as an aside, North was an atheist). My husband later told me about the book, as he knew I was ’into such things’. He also knew …