Science and Society: An Evolving Dialogue

Science and Society: An Evolving Dialogue

This text is part of the brochure for the 90th ACFAS Congress

Climate change, pandemics and biodiversity: While planetary and scientific concerns are at the heart of the news, they continue to be met with public misunderstanding and misinformation. Dialogue between science and society is the topic of the second symposium this year in the 90thH Akfas Conference.

Last year, the first symposium, which was part of the Acfas centenary events themed One hundred years of dialogue between science and society, looked at various aspects of science communication and mediation with the aim of making an inventory. This year, 2H A seminar on the same topic will be held on May 10 and 11.

“For Acfas, dialogue between science and society is an important value,” says Pierre Chastainay, professor in the Department of Education at the University of Kuala Lumpur, himself a science communication specialist and organizer of the symposium. In the beginning, the society was conceived of as an educated community gathering researchers. Very quickly, the need for public-targeted activities arose because it is the public that benefits from scientific discoveries and pays for them. »

Last year, researchers from several countries as well as scientific conductors were present. “We wished there would be more, so this year we made an effort to involve the Association of Science Communicators (ACS) from the outset in organizing the symposium. In addition, an agreement was concluded between Acfas and ACS to facilitate the participation of a greater number of science communicators in the conference, especially in the symposium . »

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Thus, this second symposium will continue to reflect on questions about the relevance of this dialogue in 2023, given the rise of misinformation in recent years. “We realize that the development of critical thinking in school and in the public is not what it should be, in order to allow people to distinguish between good and bad information,” emphasizes Pierre Chastainay. We also wonder how to properly train scientists to make effective science communications. We also have a commission on mediation. What are the best approaches so that scientists, who are specialists in their field, feel well-equipped to step out of their comfort zone and speak to the public about the findings of their research and the social and scientific questions that arise from particular research benefits? »

Results of a survey of scholars’ perceptions of their role as mediators will be presented. Pierre Chastainay says: “This is a good example of an activity that was launched in 2022 and will be concluded in 2023. I think the majority of scientists are aware that they have a role to play, but we will better understand their needs and questions in this regard.”

In fact, when they communicate, scientists may have concerns, either with regard to the sometimes awful reactions from the public, particularly on social media, and also with regard to the judgments of their peers. “Often, if you want to explain a concept to someone who is not a specialist in the field, you have to use everyday words that don’t betray your thinking too much. By doing so, we expose ourselves to criticism from colleagues who will challenge our observations,” says the professor. This is one of the The issues raised that scientists have to work on, is that we have to get rid of this obligation to be accurate to our colleagues when we communicate with the public. What is important is that the audience you are addressing understands it.”

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Science and misinformation

Among the papers presented, some of the blocks were directed towards discussions that took place several years ago in the media on issues related to science.

Block’s “Criticisms, Judgments, and Polarization in the Face of Science,” and his piece, “Media Disinformation and the Credibility of Science.” The state of play and reflection on good practices” will deepen the challenges the scientific community faces when it comes to getting science to the public.

“An important question we ask ourselves, of course, is how to properly prepare scientists to mediate, but the counterpart to this, which will be dealt with in the mold of ‘critiques, judgments, and polarization in the face of science,’ is how to properly prepare the public to receive this information and all kinds of communications that It may come from scientific or non-scientific people: How do you choose between wheat and chaff? So we’re interested in the development of critical thinking and the phenomenon of radicalization. What we see in schools is that teaching critical thinking is a cross-curricular skill. That means it’s not supported by anyone and often falls in between two chairs.”

On May 11, a panel will discuss the future of popularizing science in Quebec and the proliferation of promotional activities. Science education is also important for preparing the public to understand science.

“The seminar was designed to have spin-offs,” says Pierre Chastainay. We’re generalists in our approach, but it’s intentional. We want to see how people working in different fields can work together to improve the dialogue between science and society. »

This special content was produced by the Special Publications team of dutyrelated to marketing. editing duty did not participate.

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