European Science Engagement Association
The International Consortium for STEM Education
14th Public Understanding of Science and Technology (PCST) Conference: The Global Conference on Science Communication


The PCST conference in Istanbul next April promises a rich and stimulating experience for all who attend the event. Nearly 300 proposals covering a wide range of topics and many different modes of communication have been accepted to date, with possibly more to come.

Reflecting the current expansion of digital media and the conference’s main theme, Science Communication in the Digital Age, there will be panels, workshops, papers and posters dealing with various applications of online media to science communication.

YouTube, podcasts, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other social networks are all in the lens of the practitioners and researchers presenting their studies and their experiences. The opportunities that digital media present for new kinds of public communication and participation will be explored. Many of the long-running concerns of the science communication community are now being examined from the perspective of social networks.

In this online world as well as in the longer-established media contexts, conference presentations and discussions will look, for example, at how scientists view their public engagement activities and how controversy and uncertainty in science are portrayed and how audiences perceive them.

The communication through many media of issues such as climate change, and tsunami, infection and earthquake risks will be examined. There are also contributions on media professional practices and media audience perceptions in the host country, Turkey, and neighbouring countries.

Public attitudes to science across the world, including to particular aspects of science, and public participation in science in specific projects will be discussed in many contributions; citizen science is the focus of several of these.

Proposals on how to train scientists for public communication and how to train professional science communicators are themes in all PCST conferences, as new evaluations and experiences are brought to bear on these topics. Media practices in covering science and media relations with scientists are also lasting concerns of PCST conferences, though with experiences of more countries being added each time, and again in Istanbul.

There is interest from some conference participants in the ethical issues of communicating science and, less obviously perhaps, in the role of humour, cartoons and jokes; the diversity of approaches that will be presented extends to many art forms, including hip-hop.

PCST conferences have always brought together early-career practitioners and researchers with established practitioners, educators and researchers. Among some of the better-known experts in this field who are associated with proposals to the Istanbul conference are sociologists Alan Irwin, Ulrike Felt, Pablo Kreimer and Maja Horst, science communication professors John Besley, Dominique Brossard and Nancy Longnecker, science journalists Deborah Blum and Wolfgang Goede, along with Tiffany Lohwater, Director of Public Engagement at AAAS (American Association for Advancement of Science).

Members of the PCST Scientific Committee are well represented among the co-ordinators of panels and presenters of papers; these include Massimiano Bucchi, Sarah Davies, Hans Peter Peters, Michele Riedlinger and Bernard Schiele.

Brian Trench, December 2015