Carina CORTASSA, School of Educational Sciences. National University of Entre Ríos, Argentina
The coronavirus pandemic brought humanity face-to-face with its extreme vulnerability at the ‘global risk society’. Since the Covid-19’s outbreak, this condition could no longer be considered an abstraction, an intellectual approach, but the harsh reality that all of us must learn to deal with at all levels.
If the year of 2020 will be remembered as a turnaround point in human history, the same applies to the Science Communication field. In line with the Conference’s main theme, in this paper I point out at three issues derived from the recent experience which can help us – both researchers and practitioners – to think how to ‘take a step back to move forward’. The baseline conditions are briefly described first, followed by the impact of the crisis on the classical social representation of science. The latter, it is argued, entails an opportunity for deepening the paradigm change into ‘posnormal science´ communication.
Virtually every one of the field’s worst concerns arose together with the pandemic – pseudo-science, quackery, conspiracy theories, rumour mongering, biased arguments – boosted by powerful allies such as digital platforms and social networks. But that was not all: infodemics; daily contradictory announcements; controversies among epistemic authorities; scientific advisors struggling for being heard among politicians who denied the threat or, on the contrary, politicians hiding behind experts decisions, attempting to take advantage of their – albeit weakened – public credibility. The pandemic left plenty of good reasons that justify the ‘collapsology’ current research trends addressed in this session.
In that context, people set their eyes on scientific knowledge, searching for what it ‘should be’ according to its axiomatic image: the infallible, unquestionable, unambiguous, path towards the rapid and definite control of the disease. But soon the bedrock of hope turned into shifting sands. The crisis has had an unexpected byproduct: calling into question the widespread social representation of science, anchored in classical epistemological traditions, which the ‘dominant view’ in Science Communication (Hilgartner, 1990) has largely contributed to perpetuate. However, all of a sudden, the real conditions in which scientific knowledge is produced and applied – usually, but far more in this case – emerged: a messy process made up of twists and turns, where uncertainty, controversies and risks are legitimate part and parcel of the landscape, and hard decisions have to be taken on the basis of weak and uncompleted evidences. Despite the claims made for decades, science communication has not yet been yet successful in depicting a realistic, less idealized, image of its object. Now that all those features have already been unveiled by force, the field can take advantage of the situation, firmly embracing a paradigm shift into ‘posnormal science’ (Funtowicz & Ravetz, 1993) communication once and for all.