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Critique is also a form of science communication

The Science Popularization Centre of the Silesian University of Technology (CPN) brings to light the scientific potential of the university. According to Aleksandra Ziembińska-Buczyńska – Co-founder of CPN, after five years of operation, the Centre managed to successfully inform local residents that science communication does not involve the promotion of science but also its critique.

The Science Popularization Centre of the Silesian University of Technology was nominated for the Popularizer of Science 2021 award in the Institution category organised by the Polish Press Agency. Its co-founder is Aleksandra Ziembińska-Buczyńska, PhD, winner of Popularizer of Science 2019. When CPN was still taking its first steps in 2017 - she told Polish Press Agency that she wants to create a popular science heart of Silesia.

After 5 years of the institution’s functioning, Ziembińska-Buczyńska stated in an interview with Polish Press Agency that the Centre managed to instil in its closest environment the notion that science communication does not only include the promotion of science but also its critique.

“The critique of science is included in science communication – its a form of communication. Sometimes critique allows us to elevate the quality of our work. It results from continuous change and a constant search for truth in science. Issues known for a long time might suddenly be interpreted in a completely different manner in light of new scientific discoveries, their verification, and critique. By talking about them in this new context, we popularise them”, says Zeimbińska-Buczyńska.

She also admits that her idea of the CPN’s role changed as well. “At the beginning, I wanted to create something akin to the Copernicus Science Centre, but I came to the conclusion that this is not something we need”, shares Ziembińska-Buczyńska. Today she appreciates the local character of the institution and describes its role as doors that are meant to open up ever wider and invite scientists and non-scientists to cooperate and present the University activity to a broader audience.

As part of activities undertaken at CPN, scientists can receive the so-called “first aid” in science communication. If they want to write an article concerning their research but don’t know how to do it right, the CPN offers some assistance. All those who are interested can train their science communication skills during special training sessions attended by the University’s spokesperson, an experienced tv editor, and a specialist in public appearances and storytelling.

“I constantly come across sceptical attitudes towards science communication because universities favour collecting points for publications and conference appearances rather than fostering a good relationship with the media”, says Aleksandra Ziembińska-Buczyńska, but she also points out that young doctoral students are the people who respond the most positively to the CPN’s activities.

“There is a group of people who are always ready to cooperate and you can always count on them, but there are also those who are willing to participate only when it benefits them. There are also the uncertain people who are just now are beginning to see the benefits of taking an interest in it”, states Ziembińska-Buczyńska and admits that during the special training sessions, scientists have the opportunity to learn how much the initial announcement sent to the media can change as a result of various editorial actions, which can easily get out of their control. It is not meant to discourage scientists but rather to show them the range of possible responses and where to seek help, when necessary.

Despite the local nature of its activity, the Science Popularization Centre of the Silesian University of Technology boasts a national reach by participating in various science festivals and science picnics.

“We initiate, develop, and coordinate popular science events and participate, on behalf of the Silesian University of Technology, in various festivals and events, e.g. the Silesian Science Festival KATOWICE and the Science Picnic in Warsaw”, says Ziembińska-Buczyńska and states that during the pandemic, CPN organised many online activities for various age groups. The CPN website features webpages for “juniors and seniors”, children, and scientists.

The Centre’s presence in the socio-economic environment is for Aleksandra Ziembińska-Buczyńska a particularly valuable result of the five years of its operation.

“If universities would put a stronger emphasis on the science communication carried out by their scientists, they would greatly boost their presence in the socio-economic environment”, says Ziembińska-Buczyńska and points out that the CPN often receives calls from schools and companies interested in cooperating.

“As scientists, we are a part of the society, so we should learn how to successfully communicate with it. By cooperating with schools and local companies we are becoming an institution tieing together the socio-economic environment”, says Ziembińska-Buczyńska.


The above article by Urszula Kaczorowska was published on the website of the Polish Press Agency - Science in Poland

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