Apathy and Online Activism: An Impetus for Science and Science Communication in Universities

By Camille D. Ryan and Kari Doerksen.

Published by The Technology Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Although the Internet is now the leading source of information on scientific issues, studies suggest that university faculty and researchers have been slow to adopt non-traditional forms of communication to engage in scientific conversations online. In this article we test our observation that university researchers are not widely engaged online, largely because of a lack of incentives within the traditional academic system. A textual discourse analysis of Canadian university policies reveals that faculty promotion and tenure policies rarely take into account new media practice or similar outreach activities. In addition, social media policies do not demonstrate the potential value-add or the proactive communications aspects of new media. As part of ‘issues management’ policy development, we suggest that new media practice and tools be considered in academic portfolios as presented for promotion and tenure. As well, social media policies should be more proactive and supportive of online outreach and communication.

Keywords: Social Media, Communication, Agricultural Biotechnology, Science, Public Policy, Public Debate

International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp.81-94. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 556.205KB).

Camille D. Ryan

Professional Research Associate, Departments of Plant Sciences and Bioresource Policy, Business and Economics, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

Dr. Cami Ryan is a researcher with the College of Agriculture and Bioresources at the University of Saskatchewan (Canada) and an outspoken advocate for agriculture and science. Dr. Ryan explores the role of social media tools (Twitter, Facebook, etc) as platforms for launching anti-science campaigns. Dr. Ryan provides critical insights into how ‘bad science’ can get ‘good legs’, propelling misinformation and pseudoscience onto the public radar through a weak or non-existent peer review process, fueled by the media and often endorsed by influential celebrities. This combination erodes scientific credibility and has a direct negative impact in regulatory decision making. She leverages her research experience in social network analysis, institutional analysis and agricultural policy to explore how scientific expertise can be better mobilized to overcome these challenges. Cami’s self-titled blog provides a platform for discourse around current agriculture and food controversies.

Kari Doerksen

Project Manager, VALGEN, Johnson-Shoyama School of Public Policy, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

Kari Doerksen is a Senior Project Manager at Genome Prairie, a not-for-profit organization that aligns partners and resources to develop and manage international large-scale research projects. In this role, Kari facilitates the development and management of collaborative research initiatives and is responsible for communications, finance, and overall operational management of research projects totaling $7.2 million and spanning nine countries. Kari is also an experienced scientist, with eight years of experience as a Research Scientist within a contract research and development organization. Kari is currently working with VALGEN, an international research project focused on how scientific discoveries make their way from the laboratory to the market place.

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