5 Papers Exploring Scientists as Public Intellectuals

Some interesting papers from JCOM: The Journal of Science Communication exploring the concept of scientists as public intellectuals.
  • WHY SPEAK?
  • SCIENCE COMMUNICATION AND THE PUBLIC INTELLECTUAL: A VIEW FROM PHILOSOPHY
  • EVOLUTION OF A PUBLIC INTELLECTUAL: CORAL REEF BIOLOGIST JEREMY JACKSON
  • BABELFISH AND THE PECULIAR SYMBIOSIS OF PUBLIC INTELLECTUALISM AND ACADEMIA
  • CONSIDERING THE ACADEMY: ACADEMICS, PUBLIC INTELLECTUALS AND ACTIVISM

WHY SPEAK?

by Emma Johnston

In an information free-for-all why should scientists bother to add their voice? In this commentary piece I argue there is an increasingly important role for scientists amongst the growing ranks of public intellectuals and the many who style themselves as such. First, we must become the sifters and sorters. We need to be willing to use our research and analytical skills to identify what is valuable amongst all the noise, and, if necessary, to volubly reject what is not. And, second, we need to create and defend the space everyone needs for deep thought and consideration. We need to influence ongoing debates by seeking to push them towards evidence-based arguments and areas of scientific consensus. To sift out the deliberately distracting stories and to counter fake news.

SCIENCE COMMUNICATION AND THE PUBLIC INTELLECTUAL: A VIEW FROM PHILOSOPHY

by Patrick Stokes

While science communication has become increasingly professionalized, philosophers have been far less active in, and reflective about, how we talk to the public. In thinking about the relationship between the ‘public intellectual’ and science communication, however,  philosophy has some important contributions to make, despite the differences of content and disciplinary approach. What, then, can both these professions learn from each other about how to engage with the public – and the risks that this might involve?

  • Download this JCOM paper as a PDF
  • Citation: Stokes, P. (2017). ‘Science communication and the public intellectual: a view from philosophy’. JCOM 16 (01), C03.

EVOLUTION OF A PUBLIC INTELLECTUAL: CORAL REEF BIOLOGIST JEREMY JACKSON

By Randy Olson

This commentary is both a case study of the evolution of one public intellectual, and an analysis of how he has broadened his voice beyond the standard academic bubble. His story gives a perspective on the question of, “How do public intellectuals get their start?” They almost certainly begin as “mere” intellectuals — the public part comes later. But how? How does a studious academic go from following the media to being part of the media?

BABELFISH AND THE PECULIAR SYMBIOSIS OF PUBLIC INTELLECTUALISM AND ACADEMIA

by Kylie Walker

Arthur Dent’s reluctant hitchhike through the Milky Way would not have been possible without the babelfish, which was nourished by his brain waves and in return decoded foreign languages for him. In much the same way, public intellectuals serve as science and technology academia’s babelfish for the non-STEM savvy. While STEM academics continue to push back the frontiers of knowledge, public intellectuals equip the community with the knowledge we need to make big decisions, both for our own individual lives and for our society.

  • Download this JCOM paper as a PDF
  • Citation: Walker, K. (2017). ‘Babelfish and the peculiar symbiosis of public intellectualism and academia’. JCOM 16 (01), C05.

CONSIDERING THE ACADEMY: ACADEMICS, PUBLIC INTELLECTUALS AND ACTIVISM

by Emma Weitkamp

Reflecting on the public role of academics, this issue of JCOM includes a set of commentaries exploring public intellectuals and intellectualism. The commentaries explore the role of academics in public debates, both as bringers of facts and passion. These pieces, together with past commentaries and letters to JCOM raise interesting questions about the role of academics in public debates that are, perhaps not those usually trodden in the academic literature.


These abstracts are shared under Creative Commons License 4.0 

Visit JCOM: The Journal of Science Communication

Header Image: Created by Harryarts – Freepik.com

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