Fact, Fiction and Media: Re-imagining science engagement and its impact was a workshop organised by the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS) and run in Cape Town in September 2015. The workshop focused on the potential of engagement outside the domain of traditional science education — in particular, science non-fiction writing in both books and printed journalism, science fiction, and science in images and sound.
The workshop sought to explore the human lens through which often complex science concepts may be viewed and through which public imagination might be captured and engaged, including — but not limited to — critiquing the impact of widely accessed TED talks; science writing in fiction and non-fiction formats; social media platforms such as blogs, twitter and Facebook; and less prominent science communication methods such as citizen journalism and participatory visual methods. These approaches offer excellent topics for interdisciplinary academic work, combining fields as diverse as astrophysics, anthropology and ethics, with epidemiology, genetics, theology and philosophy.
Provocations for the workshop
• How can the reach of academic work extend beyond a closed circle of academics, and find a wider audience?
• What actions, agents and conditions are necessary to create an intellectually engaged society, which is receptive to this kind of information?
Questions explored during the workshop
• What can we learn from science fiction as we seek to expand public imagination and interest in blue-sky and exploratory science in the African context?
• How can science writing approaches be applied by scientists to engage the public around new scientific concepts and to spark interest in science in Africa?
• Are there examples of science writing and science fiction in Africa that have contributed to creating a more engaged society?
• In what ways can sound and image - including music, film and visual arts - be used to produce data and to engage society in science in Africa?
A storify of the workshop proceedings can be found here.