Public Understanding

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University of Brighton, June 13th and 14th 2009.
Science and the public: uncertain pasts, presents and futures.

The relationship between science and the public has provided fruitful material for analysis from a range of academic disciplines, and an important area of policy and practice, in recent years. Studies and experience have revealed a startling complexity, past and present, in science communication, a range of channels (formal, informal, fictional) through which dialogue and debate takes place, and a wide variety of participants in these interactions. Science itself has been reconceptualised, and the complexity of science as a discourse, as practice and as a form of life raises many questions. Science has long been seen as a quest for certainty, even if that goal is unachievable, but our interactions with and examinations of science often reveal, and are characterised by, many uncertainties: what are we encountering, describing and making when we examine science in its many forms? At the same time as this critical examination of the interface between science and the public has been taking place, a dramatic proliferation in modes and amounts of public engagement with science occurred. Science museums, outreach work and edutainment for younger people have achieved new prominence while history of science and popular science texts flourish in the market. This conference will bring together academics and practitioners who have an interest in the intersection of science and non-science, be that in contemporary, past or future societies, to confront and discuss the uncertainties, and certainties, of science and the public.

Possible topics may include:

  • Scientific controversies in the media
  • Experts and expertise in public
  • The representation of science in fiction
  • Public expectations of science and technology
  • Historical analysis of the relationship between science and the public
  • The role of museums, outreach and edutainment
  • Science communication in theory and practice
  • The role of news and entertainment media (including the internet)
  • The construction of interdisciplinary projects and frameworks

Keynote Speakers (confirmed):

Dr Patricia Fara, Senior Tutor of Clare College, University of Cambridge
Professor Steve Fuller, Sociology, Warwick University

Abstract submission

Individual paper proposals for a 20 minutes presentation should be submitted by abstract (no longer than 300 words) to by 14th February 2009. Please include full contact details (name, affiliation, email) of all authors and four keywords.

Panel submission

The conference organizers also encourage full panel submissions and roundtable sessions. Panel proposals should include a panel abstract and individual abstracts for each of the papers on the panel as well as contact information (name, affiliation, email) of the presider (moderator) and all panel members. Roundtable proposals should be a single abstract with names and contact information for all presenters.

Conference Fee

In line with previous years the conference fee is expected to be in the region of £50 with concessions for students.

All submissions should be emailed to by 14th February 2008. Please send enquires to this address as well.

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University of Manchester, UK

Today the sciences are linked to society through many different channels of
communication. The public interfaces with science during controversies that
involve scientists as well as journalists, politicians and the citizenry as
a whole. This interdisciplinary conference brings together diverse strands
of academia in order to consider science, technology and medicine as they
intersect with non-professional cultures in both contemporary and historical

The deadline for registration is Saturday 14 June.

For registration details and further information, see the conference
website, or email

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