Go back to article: Science communication in Latin America: what is going on?

Academic research and publication

The number of theses and dissertations in science communication – another indicator of the health of the field – has been increasing in the region. Brazil is a good example here: the first thesis identified in science communication was defended in the 1980s, whereas now more than a hundred dissertations and theses are defended every year.[4]

Research and published scientific outputs in the science communication field have also been increasing. However, this is an area in which there is a notable gap in information – a critical aspect that made PCST 2014 particularly important, since it brought questions about research to the fore. Very little is known about how many research groups in science communication exist in the region, what kind of research they are carrying out and where they have been publishing. This is not, of course, a challenge faced only in Latin America – but in this part of the world knowledge of what is produced in science communication is almost at the nano-scale.

English is a barrier for most of the researchers, which could be an explanation for why Latin America is so under-represented in international journals such as Public Understanding of Science, Science Communication and International Journal of Science Education, Part B: Communication and Public Engagement. An interesting analysis presented by Rick Borchelt at PCST 2012 in Florence[5] identified 1237 papers on science communication published in English in the period 2000–09. Only 16 of them came from Latin America.

However, the language barrier is not enough to explain the lack of papers from Latin America in international journals: the low percentage of papers from the region is also observed in the Journal of Science Communication, which allows authors to submit papers in Spanish and Portuguese, which are then translated by the journal.

With the aim of increasing understanding of the main international journals in science communication – and the criteria they use for approving submissions – a session was organised at PCST 2014 presenting the journals mentioned above plus the Science Museum Group Journal. This was one of the best-attended sessions of the conference, and not only by Latin Americans.

In summary, it is clear that some action needs to be taken to encourage science communication research in Latin America. Scientific research production in the field is either low (and needs to be pushed) or is simply invisible (and needs to be made visible). Most likely, the explanation is a combination of the two.

Component DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15180/140205/006