Engaging, rewarding and well-received – VA’s experiences at the PCST conference in Brazil

The 13th international PCST conference took place between 5 and 8 May 2014 in Salvador, Brazil. The conference is held every two years and brings together delegates from across the world, all of whom work with science communication in some way. Vetenskap & Allmänhet, VA, (Public & Science) contributed three engaging sessions to the programme.

During four days in May, over 500 delegates gathered to participate in some 350 sessions at the PCST (Public Communication of Science & Technology) conference in Salvador, Brazil. The first PCST conference was held in 1988 and this year was the first time the conference has been hosted by a South American country. The theme of this year’s conference was Science communication for social inclusion and political engagement.

How do you get politicians to come to a science café?

VA’s poster on Science among politicians: Creating Innovative Forum for Dialogue focused on the science cafés that VA has organised at the Swedish Parliament and on VA’s picnics with researchers at Almedalen, Sweden’s annual political forum.
“The poster attracted a lot of attention from the delegates and there were many who were curious about whether similar types of events would work in their home countries,” said Maria Lindholm, Director of Research at VA, who presented the poster at the conference. The most common question that the delegates had was ‘how do you get politicians to attend the event’.

“That was an issue that we solved by holding the science café in the Parliament building. If the politicians won’t come to the science café, then the science café must be brought to the politicians,” said Maria Lindholm.

Lotta Tomasson, Project and Communications Manager at VA, ran a video session about the Researchers’ Grand Prix, the Swedish contest in which scientists are challenged to present their research to a public audience in a very short amount of time. She also gave a presentation about the annual mass experiment for schools that VA coordinates as part of the Researchers’ Night​​ science festival. Both presentations were enthusiastically received by the audience.

“We, the staff at VA, are practitioners compared to many of the other delegates, who had a more theoretical focus on science communication, and our approach was very well-received by the conference participants,” said Lotta Tomasson.

Follow-up and further collaboration

Among the many interesting projects presented at PCST, there was a German project looking at how to report research results that are not yet entirely verified; an Italian initiative in which children interviewed scientists and wrote their own newspaper; and an Australian study on confidence in research and researchers.

“I would like to see more international collaboration in science communication. It seems indeed that the Scandinavian countries are at the forefront when it comes to communicating about research and we have our own established networks. However, we have less overview of what is happening beyond our immediate neighbours and in countries with different languages. At the conference, we saw many projects that are of relevance to our work in Sweden,” said Maria Lindholm.

Lotta Tomasson agreed: “There was a strong focus during discussions about ways to follow-up after events and measure the impact of your work – something we need to do more of. Another issue that was hotly debated was meeting places for researchers and the public. Where do you meet, if no natural meeting places exist?”

The organisation behind the PCST conference is The International Network on Public Communication of Science and Technology. Its aim is to create discussion about the theory and practice around science communication and stimulate public debate about science and technology and its role in society. Members of the network include, for example, researchers of communication, employees of science centres and museums, science journalists and scientists who communicate with the public. The next PCST will be held in 2016 in Istanbul.

Watch #pcst2014 / Salvador, Brazil / May 5 – 8, 2014  in Social Media: http://seen.co/event/pcst2014–2014-851# and https://twitter.com/PCST2014


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