Dr Will Grant of the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at ANU joins RealScientists this week as our curator. Will is a political scientist and sociologist by training, with a particular interest in the intersection of science, politics and society, and how the relationships between these have changed with the evolution of new technologies. He completed his PhD at the Uni of Queensland, as classy and intelligent people are wont to do, looking into at the political impact of the development of scientific geography – namely, maps.
“All scientists are interested in maps,” Will told us, “but for me they have a particular appeal. They’re obviously amazingly beautiful, revealing and useful artefacts – but they’re also a form of scientifically generated technology that has profoundly shaped our interaction with the world. Maps – as lots of people will tell you – are far from neutral depictions of the world. They’re powerful, and have been used for centuries by the powerful to perserve their privilege. But – under certain circumstances – they can also be intensely democratic. Any good map will not only tell you something about the world, it’ll also tell you something revealing about the perspective of the mapper.”
Apart from Apple Maps of course, which tell you bugger all. So how did a social scientist with no particular background in science communication end up immersed in teaching and researching that very field at the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science? “For them it’s a recognition that knowledge of politics and the political process is a key part of the skill set of good scientists and science communicators. For me it’s an unexpected – but good – fit. In my Phd, though I didn’t know of the explicit discipline of Science Communication, I did a lot of work in Science and Technology Studies, History and Philosophy of Science and Critical Geography. I teach Science and Public Policy, Science Communication and the Web and a public speaking class, while supervising research students on these sorts of topics.”
Aside from his research and teaching interests he is also a regular contributor to The Conversation and The Drum, and is involved in the making of a short documentary on the communication of complex science, or as he calls it, ‘science communication research communication’. Will tweets at @willozap when he’s not tweeting for us, which statistically is most of the time. We are looking forward to Will sharing his interest in maps, art, cooking and those weird running shoe things with the individual toes. Seriously, what’s with them.