SISSA-International School for Advanced Studies Journal of Science Communication Article Between understanding and appreciation. Current science communication in Denmark

Kristian Nielsen
2005 unpublished
In this paper I use the concepts "understanding of science" and "appreciation of science" to analyze selected case studies of current science communication in Denmark. The Danish science communication system has many similarities with science communication in other countries: the increasing political and scientific interest in science communication, the coexistence of many different kinds of science communication, and the multiple uses of the concepts of understanding vs. appreciation of
more » ... reciation of science. I stress the international aspects of science communication, the national politico-scientific context as well as more local contexts as equally important conditions for understanding current Danish science communication. A recent focus study in the Journal of Science Communication, based on experiences and reflections from the Eighth PCST Conference (Public Communication of Science and Technology) held in Barcelona in 2004, highlights the great cultural diversity both within science and research communication (hereafter simply called science communication) and within science communication studies. 1 Since then, other focus articles have discussed science communication in countries as different as Brazil, India and China. 2 A preliminary conclusion from these analyses is that national and regional contexts contribute to shaping the purpose, means and results of science communication. 3 In a similar way, another large report, called OPUS, on science communication in six European countries highlights the heterogeneity and variety between the different countries studied. 4 The report concludes that it is difficult, if not impossible to develop common criteria for good science communication practise, and also to transfer science communication initiatives from one national context to another. This being the case, it is necessary to gain understanding of the contexts that influence innovations within science communication. As I will argue in this paper, these contexts are not necessarily national but may also involve international networks, thus connecting the national and the international levels. On behalf of the Wellcome Trust, the British firm Research International conducted a survey of British science communication. 5 The surveyors identify a number of different science communication projects, each of which has its own aims and target audience. As a result of their width, some projects overlap while others are complementary to each other, if not divergent. The survey also mentions that a lot of the projects studied take a special interest in supporting dialogue. The fact that more people today wish to and feel competent to engage in two-ways communication with scientists, supports this observed trend. In Denmark, current science communication is also shaped by national agendas and culturally determined views of both science and communication. Science communication is a hot topic in today's Denmark, especially as a result of the new University Act, which came into force in May 2003. 6 The Act lists science communication as a third obligation for the universities, in addition to research and teaching. Danish universities are intended to play an increasing role in communicating science which is also the case in many other European countries. 7 Consistent with European developments, the reasoning behind the new University Act is the Government's desire to attract younger people to science education and the will to make the universities more socially accountable.