For this fourth part, I’m going to focus on science public relations (pr) and marketing and public engagement in Canada. In my view, these activities are part of the science communication spectrum but they are not synonymous with it as others suggest (see part 2 of this series).
This should have been pretty short as there is very little science pr or marketing in Canada but I will be contrasting the situation here with elsewhere. As for public engagement in Canada, that has tended to be focused on biotechnology, which is not currently a hot topic, consequently, there is little activity at the moment.
To get the best sense of what I mean by science pr and marketing let’s contrast the efforts here with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in the US.
The organization’s name suggests two meanings (a) scientists discuss and critique their work thereby advancing research and (b) advancing science in the public eye. The AAAS holds a very large annual meeting which anyone can attend if they can pay the registration fee. From the AAAS 2010 conference website,
AAAS President and Nobel Laureate Peter C. Agre invites you to join a diverse array of leading scientists, engineers, educators, and policy-makers at the association’s 176th meeting. It will attract attendees from all U.S. states and territories as well as more than 50 countries
This is well attended by journalists and you will notice, if you pay attention to the presentation titles and abstracts, that after a meeting, stories about these presentations start appearing. The first stories usually directly reference the meeting but you can also see stories up to one or two or even more years later. For example, the first discussion of the ‘CSI effect’ on forensic science and public expectations was held at a AAAS annual meeting (I think it was the 2005 meeting). There have been many media stories since about the CSI effect.
From a pr/marketing perspective, this is an excellent effort. Last year, the AAAS even added a little flare to their efforts by holding a ‘Dancing with the Scientists’ video contest. You can read more about the contest here at the TierneyLab blog on the NY Times website.
The American Chemical Society (ACS), in addition to its usual meetings, has also gotten into the act and has held two video contests that focus on describing and explaining nanotechnology. (You can find more about these contests in my July 21, 2009 and Feb. 23, 2009 postings.)
There are no comparable organizations of scientists in Canada. There is the Canadian Science Writers Association which has this on its website,
We stand for “excellence in science communication in Canada”, representing nearly 500 journalists, students, scientists, communications officers, and policy makers
in Canada and abroad.
Weirdly, you cannot access their events page unless you are a member. This seems like an odd policy since most organizations market to new members through their events and it stands as an example of the tentative kind of science communication that is practiced in Canada. (more on Monday)
Two quick items, (a) Andrew Maynard has found a fabulous Italian nano wine commercial from the 1970′s. There was no nanotechnology associated with either the production of the wine or the packaging; I guess someone just liked the word nano. Do watch the video, it’s very ’70s. (b) Rob Annan on Don’t leave Canada behind has posted more comments on the basic vs applied science debate which is taking place in the US (and in Canada too). He excerpts and cites some provocative material about the ‘false’ dichotomy.
Tags: AAAS, AAAS 2010, ACS, American Association for the Advancment of Science, American Chemical Society, Canadian Science Writers Association, Dancing with the Scientists, marketing, nano wine, public relations, science communication, science policy, video contests