Science in Society

Science in Society

Interdisciplinary research, talking and teaching about science

The Science in Society group is concerned with the relationship between science, scientists, society, the history of science, and the communication of scientific ideas and issues to different audiences and through a range of media. We are interested in stimulating conversations about these topics and asking questions like:

  • What is the role of the scientist in today's society?
  • What roles have science, scientists and science organisations played in New Zealand’s past?
  • How does science contribute to the economy?
  • How does the science of climate change inform decisions at individual, government, and international levels?
  • Are current communication efforts by the science community meeting the information needs and wants of the public and other audiences?

Victoria University now offers a minor in Science in Context.

Interdisciplinary research, talking and teaching about science

The Science in Society group is concerned with the relationship between science, scientists, society, the history of science, and the communication of scientific ideas and issues to different audiences and through a range of media. We are interested in stimulating conversations about these topics and asking questions like:

  • What is the role of the scientist in today's society?
  • What roles have science, scientists and science organisations played in New Zealand’s past?
  • How does science contribute to the economy?
  • How does the science of climate change inform decisions at individual, government, and international levels?
  • Are current communication efforts by the science community meeting the information needs and wants of the public and other audiences?

Victoria University now offers a minor in Science in Context.

Staff

Dr Rebecca Priestley

Rebecca Priestley is an award winning science writer and historian with a research focus on New Zealand science in the 20th century. She has a background in earth sciences and more than 20 years' experience in science communication. Rebecca's most recent book, Dispatches from Continent Seven (Awa Press, 2016) is an anthology of Antarctic science writing, from early accounts of the geography and wildlife of the frozen continent to recent warnings about the impact of climate change, ocean acidification and invasive species. Her 2012 book Mad on Radium: New Zealand in the atomic age (Auckland University Press), explored New Zealand’s nuclear and radiation history and argued that the country was once as enthusiastic about the coming atomic age as any Western nation. While Rebecca’s ongoing history of science research looks at the role that science has played in New Zealand’s past, she continues to write articles and essays about a range of issues in science today.

Dr Rhian Salmon

Prior to coming to New Zealand, Rhian Salmon worked with the British Antarctic Survey for seven years, first as an atmospheric chemist and later as education, outreach, and communication coordinator for the International Polar Year 2007-08. She has expertise in catalysing conversations between scientists and the public and has worked with a range of audiences on science festivals, public debates, global community events and expeditions. Her research explores motivations and rewards for scientists involved in public engagement activities, and how these efforts connect to latest research in Public Engagement with Science and Technology.

Other affiliated staff

Short course: Antarctica online

Most of us will never get to visit Antarctica, but this course hopes to offer the next best thing.

The Science in Society team present Antarctica Online, a new fully online course. Lectures for the six-week course were filmed on the ice by science historian Rebecca Priestley and geologist Cliff Atkins. The team gathered material over 10 days around Scott Base, McMurdo Station, and the Ross Island historic huts and three days at an Antarctic Research Centre field camp in the Transantarctic Mountains. As well as filming lectures for their own modules—on Antarctic science history, and Geology and paleoclimate—they also filmed material for a third module, Constructing Antarctica, which will be led by Rhian Salmon, and Leon Gurevitch from the School of Design.

The course examines contemporary Antarctic scientific research, placing it in a wider scientific, historical, social and cultural context.

This not-for-credit course is open to everyone. For more information on the course and to find out how to enrol, go to Short Courses.

Research projects

Science communication and public engagement

Part of our research involves the study of the motivations and experiences of scientists and participants involved in science outreach projects. This section provides links to some of that research, and associated ethics approval. For more information about any of these projects, please contact Rhian Salmon.

History of science conference

Venue: Victoria University of Wellington
Date: 23-24 November 2015
2015 is a significant year for New Zealand science history: it is 150 years since James Hector arrived in Wellington to set up many of our national science organisations; and 100 years since Ernest Marsden arrived in Wellington to join Victoria College. Victoria University is pleased to announce an academic conference to celebrate these anniversaries focusing attention on New Zealand’s science history and building momentum for the Royal Society of New Zealand’s 150th anniversary in 2017 and the 250th anniversary of the arrival of the first European scientists in 2019. Download PDF pdf202KB

Centre Manager