Hidden in the figures: a new approach to evaluating the effectiveness of science communication

Event type: 
16 May 2019

UNSW AGSM, Pioneer Theatre

Isabelle Kingsley

There is little evidence that science communication is effective (Sless and Shrensky, 2001). A fundamental problem is that studies where learning impacts of science communication are measured mostly reveal little to no change — and in some cases, even slight decreases — in participants’ understanding of science. These studies mostly use quantitative methods, such as numerical scores derived from survey rating scales and responses.

Our study took a mixed methods approach to assess learning impacts and applied novel computerised techniques to the analysis of qualitative data. The findings reveal insights otherwise obscured in quantitative data. Hidden in the figures is the indication that science communication activities that are more participatory in nature triggers cognitive conflict in participants and disrupts common public misconceptions about scientific practice by exposing subjects to the true nature and processes of science.

Bio: Isabelle Kingsley is a professional science communicator and educator. She is currently completing a PhD at UNSW’s Australian Centre for Astrobiology, researching the impacts of science communication on public scientific literacy. Isabelle started her career as a high school science teacher but later switched gears and worked as a science communicator and educator at various cultural institutions in Canada and Australia. Isabelle has created and managed multiple large-scale science communication initiatives and is the co-founder and former director of the Sydney Science Festival.