By Craig Cormick
Let’s do a little bit of short-term crystal ball gazing. (I have this wonderful glass ball crafted by a glass-blower – those most wonderful and near-extinct artisans). What is 2017 likely to bring and what impacts will it have on what we do in our work as science communicators?
According to groups like the World Economic Forum we are going to see the continued emergence of disruptive technologies and global challenges emerging from climate change that will increasingly need science-led solutions, be they health, environmental or otherwise. But we are also going to see continued social polarisation the disruption of traditional trust and an increase in manufactured news that aligns with polarised perspectives rather than notions of evidence.
It is going to be a very murky world where truth is contested, science is seen as just one of many world views, and news has to combat fake news.
How do we continue to do our jobs in this changing world, where the skills and knowledge we have spent many years acquiring can be so easily dismissed by audiences or increasingly prove ineffective in reaching them?
It is apparent that many professionals, not just science communicators, will need to fall back on new ways of think and acting to best adapt to this changed environment. Think of it as a ‘social climate change’ that is happening around us, and if we fail to keep on top of it, we risk seeing our profession slip away in terms of relevance to all but the most devoted science fan-boys and fan-girls.
We need to look into our crystal ball and see a future where science communicators are respected as having access to the latest relevant research and data that enables them to do their jobs effectively. And we need ease of access to such data that can be easily obtained from trusted sources in our increasingly busy lives.
Fortunately, gazing into the foggy future, we can envisage a situation where science communicators better share findings and data with each other. Better develop best practice guides and principles better suited for 2017 and beyond, such as is done at ASC Conferences.
Collectively we have the data, the knowledge and the tools to work more effectively in this changed era, and need to develop better mechanisms for sharing and accessing it. Yes, we will have to work a little harder and smarter – but to fail to do so is to risk becoming as near extinct as glass-blowers.