Is science communication getting more complicated?
By Toss Gascoigne
The Beijing Association for Science and Technology held its annual science fair and round-table conference last week.
Gerrit Faust of Munich’s Deutsche Museum gave a fine example of science communication at work: start with a challenging problem, think about the practical implications, and design an event to challenge and involve visitors.
The issue is energy. Germany is turning off its nuclear reactors, moving away from fossil fuels and towards renewables. But how can all the arguments about ecology, profitability, social justice and jobs be reconciled?
The centrepiece of the exhibition is a game where visitors are invited to step onto the ‘political dancefloor’ and into the central exhibition space. There they encounter big screens with key figures in the energy turnaround played by actors.
Everyone is there: from the nuclear power lobbyist and the farmer, to a woman involved in building hydroelectric plants and a technician who works on the electric power network.
Visitors try to sort out the slogans and arguments and decide what kind of energy turnaround they want, replicating the experiences of politicians and recording their decisions on a punchcard where they discover which energy-transition type they are.
Gerrit said science communication is getting more complicated, and it’s harder to build the emotional bridges needed to make a successful exhibit (‘somewhere between school and Oktoberfest’).
The ‘energie.wenden’ exhibit, aimed at adults rather than children, encourages people to build their own opinion by providing facts. That’s got to be an advance in science communication.
Image: Deutches Museum energie.wenden exhibit