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An example: The Principia magazine

In this video, Enrique Royuela describes the example of the Principia magazine, a Spanish science communication initiative.
Scientific dissemination is, by definition, to make scientific knowledge available to the public. That is, to transfer what is being done in research to society. This seems so easy, but actually, it is not. And it’s because science has a peculiar language and the way of communicating the message is essential for people to understand it or not. Hence, scientific dissemination is a responsibility. Why do I say it’s a responsibility? Because, with scientific knowledge and its diffusion, not only is culture acquired but also critical thinking is being fostered. That is, the ability to analyze social reality, not only academic and scientific.
That ability to evaluate our reality and decision making based on logical reasoning, that is a very powerful weapon in our day to day. That is why scientific dissemination and its role in society can’t be a mere entertainment, something exclusive of scientists or geeks, or a banality. It is a responsibility. And I would even say that it is an obligation. Because all of us who are involved in science must guarantee that it reaches the whole world.
Principia is a project designed by Cristina Escandón, Javier Díaz-Romeral and a server. When we considered developing Principia, we wanted to make a totally different project, innovative and above all very original, where the priority was to transmit the message of science in a simple way so that most people could understand it. We were not going to demand from anyone to have knowledge of science, or mastering academic language.
But we were going to demand one thing: to be curious. With all this in mind Principia emerged, an initiative born with the firm conviction that there are no sciences and humanities, but a single culture. Hence, that is our motto. We did not want to make people choose between science or literature, but we wanted to compose an integrating project
where we could unite our three passions: Science, Art and Humanities. Principia was born from there.
First in its online version and then with two printed publications: “Principia Magazine” and “Principia Kids”, both inspired by science stories.
Because let’s not forget one thing: science gives us the most amazing stories ever lived by the human being.
So we asked ourselves: why not tell them differently?
When we designed Principia, two rather common mistakes were being made. The first was that technical and academic language was being abused to disseminate science. That is, transmitting that scientific knowledge into society was being done in a language that most people did not understand and therefore were excluded. Another mistake we found and that we wanted to solve with this new project was that the same formats were always being used. We realized that blogs, web pages or the typical talks of science divulgation were always being used. Then we saw that these formats left no room for surprise, that more original formats or sources which could broaden the spectrum of people who might be interested in science were not being used.
So, with those two “mistakes”, let’s say, very common in scientific dissemination, we decided to transform them. Thus, from the printed magazines themselves, where we realized that it was a conventional format and also traditionally controlled by the big media, we decided that we had to contribute our grain of sand in terms of innovation trying to ensure that these two magazines could survive on their own, that they did not depend neither on advertising nor on advertisers, but we wanted the content to mark the viability of the project. That is to say, they were the readers themselves who were going to make it viable. We decided to develop other types of projects that were perhaps more related to leisure and general culture.
In this way, a card game was born, a memory game, called “peer science”, or our latest project, which is a collection of cards of scientists, where in addition to make scientific dissemination in a totally playful format, we were trying to change the references, because not everything is going to be about football players or princesses. And we were very clear that if we could promote scientific-artistic vocations, much better. And if we could create an integrative project where boys and girls could play together and could have the same references, well, much better. We also realized that we were changing the usual trend. What is this trend?
Well, the normal thing is to always try to attract the public to your website, your blog or your dissemination talks. But we worry very little about going to those places that are more typical of culture, such as an exhibition center. And an idea was born from there, an exhibition, called “host science, in freedom lies knowledge”, which explains very well all that I want to tell. Through an art exhibition, where the protagonists were scientists exiled from the Second World War and the Spanish Civil War, we were not only using an original format to disseminate science but also making a social complaint.
Because this exhibition was born to denounce the mistreatment that the refugees were suffering and that continue to suffer nowadays from most of the political speeches and also from the press. That is to say, we can take a new resource, disseminate science and also do social work. This is not very common in the rest of scientific dissemination projects. However, it is very integrated into Principia’s DNA. In this way, we take totally conventional resources, we turn them and we transform them into something new and they are very useful for us to disseminate science, to promote scientific-artistic vocations, to claim other types of references in boys and girls, but also to claim the role of women and LGTBI collective in science.
And for many other things that, in the end, go far beyond what in the first moment could be attributed solely to scientific dissemination.
It is evident that there is a disconnection between people and science. And we think that is mainly due to the way of transmitting the message which is often used in scientific dissemination. That is, abusing very academic or very scientific terms is what makes people not understand the message and therefore be excluded from that dissemination. Hence, from Principia, having this clear in mind, we thought that one way to connect with people was to define a very clear line of dissemination that was based mainly on emotion.
Of course, to thrill is not that simple: how were we going to do it? We were clear that we have to use the narrative resource. Which is a resource that we have found like no other, with that ability to introduce the reader into the story and, therefore, help him/her empathize with that story. Bearing this in mind and that science gives us amazing stories, we should only find those stories worth telling. They did not have to be current stories, they could be conventional stories or very old ones. What we did have clear was that we should find a unique and original approach.
With the narrative, with an original approach and trying to involve the reader in the story, what we achieve is to take conventional stories and transform them into original stories, fresh, rigorous but entertaining
and, above all, the most important for us: suitable for all audiences.

An example of science communication: The Principia magazine.

Communicating science does not need to follow existing approaches and avenues, and creativity can play a major role. In this video, we discuss a successful example: an initiative that fuses traditional media – a magazine – with new approaches, such as creating card games to engage young people, or fusing art and science communication together to reach wider audiences.

Principia is also an example of how science and society can be connected, by talking about the histories of scientists that were persecuted during past wars, and by reflecting, as we did in the previous activity, on the relationship between science and society.

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Science Communication and Public Engagement

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