A recent international multi-stakeholder forum held at the Faculty of Science, Universiti Malaya, highlighted the need for scientists to engage more actively with society as the nation transitions into its post-pandemic reality.
The forum, entitled “Translating Science into Public Knowledge: The Role of Science Communication in a Post-Pandemic Society” was organized by the Department of Science and Technology Studies, Faculty of Science, Universiti Malaya and gathered discussants from academia, industry and government.
“There are unsettling questions people want to ask about science, but this is not reflected in our traditional polling methods. Communities need to be engaged more deeply to delve into the context of their concerns in order for science to address their doubts more effectively,” said Professor Joan Leach, Director of the Australian Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, Australian National University.
Professor Leach was joined on the panel by Pn Hazami Habib, CEO of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia and Associate Professor Dr Nahrizul Adib bin Kadri, Director of Corporate Communications in Universiti Malaya.
Pn Hazami Habib noted, “Science without communication is just for scientists. At the Academy of Sciences Malaysia, we promote a variety of initiatives to enhance the culture of inquiry in education, and train scientists in story telling to make scientific knowledge accessible.”
The discussion touched on the issue of misinformation that is typically at the centre of scientists’ concerns.
“Going against misinformation is not a one-off opportunity – it is about carrying on the conversation. Scientists need to resist the urge to correct others and persist in participating in the conversation,” said Professor Leach.
Dr Adib concurred, “Misinformation is only misinformation from one direction. It is important for scientists to tell their own stories because good content will be aggregated the same way.”
The discussants agreed that building trust and respect with society is the first step for scientists to bridge the gap between science and the layperson.
“Scientists need to stop and ask what do people want, and how do we tolerate dissent. How do we disagree respectfully?,” said Prof Leach.
Dr Adib mused, “Disagreement is normal. Scientists should focus on moving forward towards having better outcomes for everyone as opposed to striving for solutions that will erase what they disagree with.”
“The scientific community needs to change from being solution providers to being solution seekers that will seek more and more views to ensure no one is left behind,” said Pn Hazami.
The forum is available for viewing on Youtube at https://youtu.be/IXxQleHBXZ8.