I second Susan’s remarks, especially (at the risk of repetition) about the need for a professional ethics code for science communicators. I have been pushing this for 5 years or more now, but it seems to have stalled completely. Don’t you guys believe in having ethical standards?
An ethics code is not just there to provide guidance to science communicators – it is also intended to protect you from unethical requirements imposed by your employer, eg when they ask you to write something which you know in your heart is just marketing hype or even misinformation, not fact-based science. Far too many communicators are treated by their organisations and managers as spin merchants, rather than as knowledge sharers, and we need to defend the ideal of sharing human knowledge in an objective, unbiased way.
As universities, especially, become more commercial their behaviour comes to resemble that of corporations: the communications function is subsumed into marketing, promotion, advertising and PR. It is directed at making money for the institution rather than educating society. Ditto for a great many government comms functions nowadays – what used to be public information has been translated into political propaganda by the grubby realpolitik of today. Science agencies, too, are driven more by the need to appease political and commercial paymasters rather than inform, educate, enlighten and account to the Australian people for how they invested our tax science dollars.
Those are valid professions – but they are not science communication, and they are not out job. We need to make clear the distinction, and have a written code that explains it not only to ourselves, but to anyone who tries to misuse us. Or else we will end up being a despised subset of the advertising industry.
Attached is the draft I originally submitted to ASC in 2008.
Over to you!
Julian Cribb FTSE
Julian Cribb & Associates
ph +61 (0)2 6242 8770 or 0418 639 245
I think Charles has a valid point.. ASC is beginning to look like Food4media or TravMedia.
Maybe we should do what some other associations do and charge a premium for these media release postings? They are after all advertising. I think there are other better places to get media release, AusSMC, Eureka, Google alerts are a few of the places I subscribe and of course science direct topic alerts.
I personally would like to see more communication about communication on this list. I know you can take the horse to water etc. But why don't members feel comfortable airing their bits on here? So many times people have responded to me off the list. I feel like shouting. Keep it on the list.
I would also like to see more communication from the executive on this list. We haven't heard anything about the new website. We keep employing scope editors and the newsletter keeps flopping. We keep talking about becoming more professional but what's happening to our charter and code of ethics?
Members are not involved in any of the communications for any of the events or funding or anything really, the only communication comes from those few that can be bothered to raise questions or liaise on the list.
I repeat. We can't operate in a vacuum.
Please don't email me off the list with your replies. Keep it on the list.
Susan Fairbairn (nee Kirk) B.comm freelance Journalist
Member and Queensland Web Editor - Australian Science Communicators (ASC)
Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA)
tel: +61 7 5478 6761 | mobile: 0414645953 | email: firstname.lastname@example.org
www.susankirk.com.au | Skype: susanakirk | Tweet: @SusanAKirk
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