Tackling the pest control issue

16 January 2015
Communication About SocioScientific IssueS (CASSIS) research group

An international research group is visiting the Faculty of Education as part of a three-year project aimed at improving communication about socioscientific issues.

Seven researchers from the University of Southampton, University College of London and Ecole Nationale de Formation Agronomique in Toulouse are working with Faculty of Education Associate Professor Bev France, Dr Sally Birdsall and PhD and Masters students, Kathryn Garthwaite, Brent Wagner and Katie Gormley, to develop better communication strategies around the socioscientific issue of pest control as it intersects with agriculture.

The focus of the New Zealand-European research group is called Communication About SocioScientific IssueS (CASSIS), and is funded by the European Union Marie Curie Actions International Research Staff Exchange Scheme to share research time between researchers of other universities.

It is believed to be the first time educationists have been awarded Marie Curie funding, which typically goes to scientists and those in the medical profession.

Associate Professor Bev France, who led the development of the project, said their focus is to provide research-informed strategies to enhance communication about the socioscientific issue of pest control in agriculture.

“For example, the control of possums in New Zealand, badger culls in the UK and migration of wolves into the Pyrenees are issues that involve perceptions of risk, views of nature and the problem of ‘voice’ when different groups are attempting to communicate” says Associate Professor France.

She says the communication of science is vital for making informed decisions.

“Many decisions people make, or have opinions on, are based on aspects that aren’t scientific,” she says. “They are either emotional or views that are influenced by their own culture, there is nothing wrong with that, but they need to be aware of what their views are based on. It is important to develop people’s scientific literacy so they know where their thinking is coming from.”

The research group is in New Zealand for one month and will hold an invitation-only discussion about socioscientific issues at the Auckland Museum on January 20.