Indicator of Change

The appliance of science



Sheila Moorcroft


Business Futures

First Published

January 2002




Sheila Moorcroft




United Kingdom

Indicator of ChangeThe Royal Institute’s Science Media Centre has been set up in December 2001 to try to enable more open and sensible scientific debate. The aim is to give science a better press, to encourage scientists to join the debate, to give media access to suitable scientists and help journalists understand the issues, take the initiative back from the media savvy single issue / protest groups.
Potential SignificanceScientific themes are emerging in theatre, film, book and TV and to growing popularity, and yet the public remain scientifically illiterate /ignorant or misguided by tabloid ‘debate’ indicating a potential shift in attitudes.
If Russell Crowe, in the film about the mathematician , Wins an Oscar this may begin to put a human face on science and ‘rehabilitate’ it in the public’s eye, in a way that no amount of documentaries could ever do. In the late 70s/ early 80s Holocaust a TV ‘soap opera series’ portrayed the holocaust in Germany in a rather sentimental way but as a result the topic was talked about in Germany in public almost for the first time since the war..
The power of story telling is enormous and becoming more accepted in corporate circles. We need to be able to understand the potential of and issues surrounding science: Will we see the use of drama to explore the issues better? A soap opera set in a science lab? PR firms that put together short plays not adverts to discuss issues?

Another side of the issue is managing the emotional debate in issues where emotions can run high. Two prominent examples are the debates about the disposal of Brent spa oil rig and GM foods. Both debates were fuelled by powerful emotional arguments. It is often the perception of the truth, NOT the truth that is important. Managing those perceptions will become increasingly important to educate the public about science.
    ScannerSheila Moorcroft, BFN UKDate21/ 20 November 2001
    Keywords LinksReputation, science; public debate; emotional debate; PR;Ref No.99

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