How Combining Digital Technology and Science Communication Can Make the World a Better Place

Digital Technology and Science

In 2011 two seemingly different worlds collided – one was brimming with digital innovation and global online communication and the other was filled with environmental science and face to face dialogues in developing country communities. One half of the puzzle waxed lyrical about the wonders of digital technology and social media, while the other insisted on knowing how these shiny toys could benefit the people and places struggling to survive in the modern world. After a great deal of social media fuelled dialogue and debate, it was revealed that each world could greatly benefit from learning from the other. The result was a new concept and fledgling organisation co-founded by Andrew Gregson and Kendall Benton called science rewired.

The mission of science rewired is: to act as the bridge between science practitioners and the digital domain; to look at science from new perspectives; and to help educate and empower individuals in such a way as to create significant positive change in the world. In our opinion, one of the greatest gifts that digital technology has given science communicators is the ability to speak about science in fresh and exciting ways to audiences once considered out of reach. One of the biggest success stories in this emerging field is ScienceAlert – the first and only website to cover the whole of Australasian science and to present its announced research outcomes to the public for free! With over a million fans worldwide, ScienceAlert’s Facebook page is more popular than the Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine and the Economist. Chris Casella, the Managing Director for ScienceAlert makes no secret about his passion for using Facebook as a platform to inspire and engage young people around the world with science.

Now, more than any other time, science communicators have access to classrooms around the globe thanks to the proliferation of digital technology. Dr Joshua Drew is a Lecturer and M.A. Program Advisor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution & Environmental Biology at Columbia University. In 2011 Joshua found a way to combine his two loves, educating young people about marine conservation and social media. Using platforms such as Ning, YouTube and Twitter Joshua connected students from Chicago with their counterparts in the Fiji Islands.

Young science writers today have a virtual smorgasbord of outlets that they can use to spark people’s interest in scientific issues, whether their subject is nanotechnology, conservation or aviation there’s bound to be an iPad app, blog or a social network that will not only suit their needs but also enhance the experience of the audience. Whereas in the past science writers were limited to print media, today you can draw inspiration from people like Dr Derrek Muller who is the Creative Director of Veritasium – a science video blog which aims to present topics in all areas of science from the simplest to the most complex. For those who love writing about science but also get a kick out of being creative,  another option I would recommend would be to create a series of animations like these ones on critical thinking co-created by Bridge8 and TechNyou. Science writers with an appreciation of all things audio can write and record their very own science podcast. The Naked Scientists is a great example of how to bring quality science discourse to a wide audience using digital platforms.

According to a conference paper by Guenther et al “the uptake of mobile technologies is increasing globally…[with]…1.2 billion active mobile-broadband subscriptions in the world—17 per cent of the global population”. With mobile phones being the technology of choice for most people living in remote rural communities, how will a new generation of science writers harness this opportunity to connect with a somewhat neglected audience?

During our launch event “Connect, Collaborate and Communicate for Change” in Adelaide this October, science rewired we will be highlighting some world-class examples of platform for science communicators to construct a space where public science engagement contributes to a better world through scientific endeavors and new digital frontiers. Some examples include:

  • Wilson da Silva, Editor-in-Chief of COSMOS Magazine, will discuss the rapid growth in user adoption of mobile computing and the factors that can make or break a content strategy for science content and reader engagement;
  • Dr. Laurel Dyson and Cobi Smith will be exploring how some communities are using mobile technology to create and share knowledge and why this is important;
  • The Online Science Communicators Survival Guide – what should communicators be on the lookout for? How can we avoid the snares of misconceptions and misinformation?

If you’re in Adelaide during October you can join us at The Science Exchange and have an opportunity to meet other young scientists and innovators in this new exciting field. You can can the event online through Facebook, Twitter and other social networks to take part in what we’re sure will be a vibrant and insightful experience.

For more information about sciencerewired and our activities in Australia and beyond visit www.sciencerewired.org

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