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Science, Stories and Society...
the Soul of Science Communication

Abstract book

The programme and abstract book is now available to download.

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Share your Stories

The theme of PCST 2018, Science, Stories and Society takes us to the core of the worldwide science communication endeavour. Stories are one of the principal means by which science is situated in society. Stories represent science in many different ways, reflecting diverse contributors and contexts.

As members of society, we receive and perceive science through the stories told by scientists, teachers, popular science authors, journalists, museums and science centres, and so many more. As members of society, scientists also constitute audiences for stories told about other parts of science, as well as being storytellers about their own science.

Not so long ago, such propositions might have caused anxiety, or antagonism, in scientific communities. "We don't make up stories," it could have been said. "We tell nature as it is". Telling stories carried the connotation of making things up, of fiction, and this was contrasted with exposition or explanation as fact-telling.

It is one of the notable achievements of the science communication movement of the past two decades to have stimulated awareness that there are many and increasing ways of communicating science with various audiences. Part of that awareness is breaking down the supposed hard border between presenting facts and telling stories. Facts need to be selected, dressed and put into order for them to be communicated; they need, in other words, to be arranged into stories.

Informal storytelling is part of all of our daily lives and formats like science cafés try to reproduce that. Formal storytelling is the professional work of explainers, mediators, publicists, broadcasters and others. Science communication as a field of practice and of research covers both of these domains. As practice, it is increasingly professionalised, but it is not limited to the work of professionals. As research, it considers how society talks about science or, if you like, the stories society tells about science.

In the science communication community we have developed our own stories about our own evolution. According to one of our guiding stories, science used to be told top-down to society but now we understand that talk about science takes place in and with society. That shift is only part of the story, an important part, but still only part.

Through reflection and research, through international collaborations and conferences like ours, we are developing more sophisticated stories about who we are and where we are heading. In a global perspective, which uniquely the PCST conferences offer, we see the co-existence and co-evolution of diverse and apparently contradictory forms of communication.

At PCST 2018 in Dunedin, thousands of stories will be told and heard. Come and share your stories.

Brian Trench
President PCST Network



Science, STORIES and Society…the SOUL of Science COMMUNICATION

Kia ora koutou (Hi everyone)

It is my great pleasure, on behalf of the Organising Committee, to invite you all to Dunedin, New Zealand – or Middle Earth as it is known around here – for PCST 2018.

Our promise to you is that we are doing everything within our hobbit-like powers to make this the most stimulating, thought-provoking, entertaining and enjoyable conference you will have ever experienced.

The Environs
This starts with the setting: Dunedin lies at the base of the beautiful Otago Harbour with its associated Otago Peninsula. Within the city's boundaries can be found the world's only mainland colony of albatross (and they are not just any albatross, but Royal Albatross, the largest in the world); the world's rarest sea lion; and two species of penguins, including the world's rarest, the Yellow-eyed Penguin. A large green belt of native bush and forest runs through the city containing a plethora of New Zealand native birds, glow-worm grottos and Peripatus (velvet worms), living fossils that have changed little in 500 million years. You get the picture: we inhabitants of Dunedin are a little unusual, but not just because of our hairy feet.

The University of Otago, where the conference will be held, is New Zealand's oldest university and arguably its most picturesque. Founded in 1869, it sits on the banks of the Leith River and contains a mixture of old stone buildings and strikingly modern ones. The St David Lecture Theatre complex is one of the latter, with first-class audio-visual facilities, break-out rooms and casual spaces. Importantly, it incorporates a café and there are places to lounge and network with other conference goers – or step outside and enjoy sitting on the lawns or sculptured steps beside the calming waters of the Leith.

PCST 2018 will occur over three days, each of which will highlight a different theme: Science, Stories and Society – the three elements that really are the heart and soul of science communication. PCST 2018 will explore that nexus between science, stories and society, that place where science communication lives.

We have an exciting line-up of Keynote Speakers for you. We have taken a great deal of care to ensure that our Keynote Speakers are gifted orators and have stimulating and, even, provocative things to say about science communication. We are also bringing a range of different formats to our keynote slots: in addition to the normal single-presenter keynotes, we will have panel discussions and interviews, even debates. If you are serious about science communication, you cannot afford to miss our keynotes: they'll be worth the price of admission alone!

Parallel Sessions
We have reduced the number of parallel sessions of contributed papers to six – the improvement most frequently requested in post-conference surveys. This will increase audience sizes, foster more interchange of ideas and reduce the sense of fracturing when we become spread too thinly. We will be curating the parallel sessions so that they represent six major foci of science communication: hence, at any one time, there should be something to interest everyone.

Poster Sessions
Concomitant with a reduction in the number of oral presentations, we are going to elevate poster presentations to be the jewel in the conference's crown. This includes giving special prominence to posters, having dedicated poster sessions with associated social activities and other ways of ensuring that authors of posters get valuable opportunities to discuss their work. We want the poster sessions to become not the booby prize, but the most rewarding way of all to exchange ideas and get feedback about your research and reflections regarding science communication.

Social Interactions and Networking
Of course, so many of us say that the best part of PCST conferences is the networking: and we certainly want to facilitate that. In addition to the social functions associated with the posters, we'll be having the conference dinner at New Zealand's only castle and a gala opening-cum-reception. Plus, Dunedin is littered with bars, pubs and fine places to eat if you want to take yourself away from the throngs for a catch-up with friends and colleagues. The café culture in Dunedin is really vibrant too, with excellent coffee available everywhere. The hub of Dunedin's nightlife is in the Octagon, the city centre, which is an easy walk from the conference venue.

Middle Earth
While the PCST conference alone is attractive, when it comes gift-wrapped, as this one, in some of the most unique and stunning scenery you can find anywhere in the world, I hope you will agree that it is an irresistible offering.

Hence, make sure you allow time when coming to PCST 2018 to explore the surroundings: from the lakes and mountains of Central Otago to the rugged beauty of the Catlins coastline, the Jurassic Park-like Stewart Island with its kiwi birds, the geysers of Rotorua, or any one of the "Great Walks" such as the Milford, Routeburn or Kepler Tracks. Take a bungee jump in Queenstown or just chill out with a Central Otago Pinot Noir and see if you can spot all the places where The Lord of the Rings was filmed.

Whatever you do, make sure you come to PCST 2018. As our Maori people say, "He kotuku rerenga tahi" (A white heron flies once) – and you're not going to want to miss this one!

Ka kite anō koutou (See you all soon)

Lloyd Spencer Davis
Chairperson of the Local Organising Committee, PCST 2018
Vice-President PCST network



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E: Annam@conference.nz