For the first time, the Public Communication of Science and Technology conference (PCST 2014) will be held in Latin America. The conference theme is “Science communication for social inclusion and public engagement,” and will be held in Salvador, Brazil, between May 5th and 8th. A major objective of this conference is to facilitate discussion and debate over public engagement with science and technology. As Toss Gascoigne, the president of the PCST network puts it, “If science is to regain the trust it had in previous generations, it has to be prepared to be more open with the public.”
Gascoigne says that themes such as climate change and vaccination programs are examples that demonstrate some public opposition toward science. “New terms such as 'the social appropriation of science' mean that the public want the right to consider science and to choose what they think is acceptable,” the PCST president explains. Suzanne Cheveigné, member of the scientific committee of PCST, reinforces Gascoigne’s opinion: “Communication must adapt to the public’s questions and to the demands of those with whom it is talking to.”
Cheveigné also emphasized that the promotion of a PCST conference in Brazil meets the objectives and the nature of the network, which seeks internationalization. “The fact the conference will be in Brazil is extremely important because it’ll be the first PCST conference in South America, thus getting more South American researchers to leverage the debate and have their say on the state of the art in science communication.” Gascoigne adds that the conference in Brazil will be an opportunity to spur science communication and to stimulate new projects and international alliances.
On the PCST network
The PCST Network promotes international conferences, online discussions, and other activities in order to stimulate dialogue among different groups engaged in public communication of science and technology. In the last 20 years, the network has progressively changed. At its inception, the PCST network was restricted to France and Spain, with meetings being held in both countries and in Canada. Now, members of the network belong to 19 countries and its conferences and symposia occur in cities worldwide, including Seoul, New Delhi, Barcelona, and Cape Town. Gascoigne reports that science communicators will soon be able to join and participate in the network. “Our committee will be elected by members and this is our next step,” he advances.
“The challenges for science communication are to present issues in the most honest and open way we can. Many science issues are highly political and the science can become blurred by the interests of big business. Our role is to promote discussions on science and to provide a stream of high-quality and accurate information to allow the people and governments of the world to make the best decisions they can,” Gascoigne remarks.
The 2014 PCST conference received more than 550 proposal submissions and those accepted have already been notified. The conference will take place at the Convention Center of the Pestana Bahia Hotel, located in Praia Vermelha (Red Beach), in Salvador, Brazil.
(Tatiane Liberato, Giselle Soares and Meghie Rodrigues)