The ‘It’s a Two Way Street – Engaging all Australians in the Sciences’ workshop focused on the challenge of creating programs, strategies and mindsets to allow engagement for all Australians with science.
Sitting in small groups, the usual discussions arose amongst the participants when considering barriers to engaging with wider audiences and ‘non-traditional’ groups.
Examining these factors revealed, however, that they were focused on one demographic – children, and one factor – education. Which then led the group to consider – are we missing major cultural issues and considerations when formulating science engagement programs?
Understanding how communities want to receive information, and other factors that might influence how they engage – not only traditional factors like language, but also how often they are ‘on the receiving end’ of other health and science messages. In depth discussion with community representatives can reveal this information, but examining previous successes with similar communities will also help. Taking the elements of these successes and empowering the community to take ownership and direction of an engagement strategy will assist in take-up and impact.
It will involve science communicators moving away from assumptions that people will find science empowering. A different approach will be allowing the community to identify and select issues that are important to them, and building an engagement strategy from this base.
If we want to engage more Australians in science, we have to change our approach – move away from traditional science communication tools, understand the community and what they want and establish sustained approaches rather than short-term blasts.