Book review

Review by Jean-Baptiste Gouyon

The text moves effortlessly from textbook chemistry to evocations of key episodes and actors in the history of this science.

Part coffee-table book, part popular science text, The Beauty of Chemistry could be a model scientific volume for non-specialist readers, from age 12 and above. Not only does it convey knowledge about chemistry in a very accessible way — I learned quite a bit reading it — but, more importantly, it invites readers to share in chemists’ love of their discipline and what excites them about it.

Science communication is a conversation meant to promote mutual understanding between scientists and…


Book review

Review by Felicity Mellor

This is an unauthorised biography, giving Seife the freedom to present a warts-and-all account.

How to tell a story about a story being overtold? Charles Seife’s biography of celebrity physicist Stephen Hawking sets out to do just this, puncturing the Hawking mythology in an attempt to separate the symbol from the human.

The broad outline of the story is well known: as a young scientist Stephen Hawking made important breakthroughs in general relativity, establishing himself intellectually even as motor neurone disease left him, first, unable to walk, then unable to write, and by his 40s, unable…


BOOK REVIEW

Review by Massimiano Bucchi

The author focuses on the role of the social sciences within the National Science Foundation and its funding schemes.

Mark Solovey: Social Science for What? Battles over Public Funding for the “Other Sciences” at the National Science Foundation, MIT Press, 2020; 408pp

The status and relevance of scientific fields are often traced back to profound epistemological arguments and convictions. This well-researched book clearly demonstrates the importance also of contingent, historical and political processes in shaping certain research areas — in this case, the social sciences in the United States.

The author focuses on the role of the social sciences within the National Science Foundation and its funding schemes. The central claims of the book are: “that the particular conditions and developments in American…


BOOK REVIEW

Review by Jenni Metcalfe

I think scientists, especially early-career researchers, will find both books useful for writing successful papers and presenting their research to a diversity of audiences.

Both these books provide tips to scientists for communicating their research. The more substantial How Scientists Communicate focuses on scientists communicating with other scientists, mainly through publications but also through presentations at conferences. One chapter deals with communicating with non-specialist audiences. In contrast, the slimmer Sell Your Research is almost entirely about presenting science to non-specialist audiences, including the general public, young people, journalists, managers and funders.

Alan Kelly: How Scientists Communicate: Dispatches from the Frontiers of Knowledge, Oxford University Press, 2020— Alexia Youknovsky and James Bowers: Sell Your Research: Public Speaking for Scientists, Springer Nature, 2020

If we define ‘science communication’ as being the communication…


Review by Louise Whiteley

Idea Colliders is a rich example of a creative, critical reaction to what the Science Gallery team saw as lacking in the contemporary science landscape

Idea Colliders tells the story of Science Gallery, a game-changing experiment in public engagement established at Trinity College Dublin in 2009. Michael John Gorman was its founding director, who persuaded the university to abandon their original plans for a “shop window” celebrating recent scientific discoveries and, instead, to open a space hosting cross-disciplinary exhibitions and events. …


BOOK REVIEW

Review by Louise Whiteley

Idea Colliders is a rich example of a creative, critical reaction to what the Science Gallery team saw as lacking in the contemporary science landscape

Idea Colliders tells the story of Science Gallery, a game-changing experiment in public engagement established at Trinity College Dublin in 2009. Michael John Gorman was its founding director, who persuaded the university to abandon their original plans for a “shop window” celebrating recent scientific discoveries and, instead, to open a space hosting cross-disciplinary exhibitions and events. …


BOOK REVIEW

Review by Stephen Hughes

The book is at its strongest when it outlines the resistant narratives which problematise AI. It is here, also, that public engagement scholars might be most interested.

In a research funding proposal to use the latest advances in Neurocognitive Artificial Intelligence (AI) to develop touchless haptic technologies the second line of the project’s objectives jumped out at me. It reminded me of the power of imagination in the justification of science: “Sadly, many people now feel like the society described in the 1990s science fiction movie Demolition Man, where physical contact was prevented and heavily sanctioned”.

Demolition Man, of all…


Review by Sharon Dunwoody

The real strength of this text is that the reader will be exposed to narratives from such places as Iran, Pakistan, and Uganda.

Individuals around the world have dramatically uneven access to science information. The editors of this text logically advocate on behalf of increased access to science communication as one remedy and hope this mammoth text will serve as something akin to baseline data reflecting science communication’s history and growth around the globe. Thirty-eight countries, regions, and continents are represented here in chapters written by a diverse set of professional practitioners and scholars.

Toss Gascoigne, Bernard Schiele, Joan Leach, Michelle Riedlinger, with Bruce V. Lewenstein, Luisa Massarani, Peter Broks (eds.): Communicating Science. A Global Perspective, ANU Press, 2020; ebook free to download

As editors Gascoigne and Schiele note…


Review by David Robert Grimes

Science Fictions serves as a superb introduction to the problem of failures of science, without resorting to alarmism.

Early on, Stuart Ritchie paraphrases Shakespeare’s Mark Anthony, declaring that he “comes to praise science, not to bury it”. Unlike the scheming Anthony of history and literature, though, Ritchie is not cloaking ulterior motives, but making quite a sincere statement of purpose from someone intimately acquainted with the worrying flaws underpinning the edifice of modern science.

Stuart Ritchie: Science Fictions — exposing fraud, bias, negligence and hype in science, Penguin, 2019; 368pp

This might seem a contrarian stance in the first pandemic of the internet era, when there is a growing public interest in research. But while scientific…


Review by Holger Wormer

This book is a good addition to the existing literature on working aids and techniques for telling stories, for designing lectures and many very interesting suggestions for further teaching resources. But it is not the big, catchy and yet critically questioning story about telling stories in science.

“Everybody loves stories.” “You can’t beat story.” “Story adds meaning.” These are just three sentences taken from the almost indoctrinating introduction of this book underlining that the author has “one goal and one goal only: to bring together the seemingly contrasting worlds of science and story”. …

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