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Sense and sensibility in science communication

16.06.2023 | 14:15 - 15:30

Friday 16 Jun 2023

David Bruce Hall

David Bruce Hall
Science ♥ society

For many, the persuasive power of science rests on its ethos, that is, its identity of being objective and rational. Scientists and communicators draw on this ethos to engage the public in science. But even though objectivity and rationality are important parts of the self-image of science, ignoring its aesthetic and emotional (or pathos) aspects leads to disengaged publics. For science communication, this means we should rethink the way we frame public engagement efforts, especially efforts that address global socio-scientific challenges.

Here, we explore the potentials for aesthetic and emotional engagement with science. We give brief examples of progressive science communication that use pathos appeals in different ways. We then engage participants in exploring how they can incorporate the pathos of science in their own science communication. We conclude by discussing how pathos appeals in science can contribute to building trust and engagement in science.

Outcomes: what will participants get from this session? Skills, knowledge, experience etc.

Participants will gain

  • insights into recent research in progressive science communication
  • a working vocabulary to identify and analyse different retorical styles in science communication
  • operational tools to discuss and qualify their own science communication practices


Consultant and trainer

Session speakers

University of Copenhagen
Sabrina will set the stage for the workshop. She will introduce the retorical appeals ethos, logos and pathos and give a brief context to their application in communication. She will then introduce the three cases that exemplify pathos-based science communication.
Tina Ibsen Formidling
Tina will present her work with the succesful science podcast 'Rum Snak' ('Space Talk'), focusing on its sensory qualities and how they are received by its listeners.
Project Scientist
Leiden University
Jon will discuss how aligning content with music allows him to generate pathos in a way that makes the content more engaging and creates a positive relationship with the content.
Marianne Achiam
Associate professor
Department of Science Education, University of Copenhagen
Marianne will demonstrate how the exhibition 'Klimatopia' used pathos appeals to engage visitors in climate discussions, and show how these discussions remained in visitors' consciousness after the visit.

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