Session 4E - Science fiction and scientists in fiction

Room 3.25


Evolution of the Scientist Image: A Visual Metrology Analysis Based on China National Knowledge Infrastructure Data

Wen Huang (University of Science and Technology of China, China)

This paper examined the image of scientists in 349 novels from the China National Knowledge Infrastructure database. We used Cite Space visual analysis to explore the discourse patterns of scientists in these texts. The clusters we discovered are visualized through a scientific knowledge map. We then deploy Thomas Kuhn’s scientific development model as a framework to categorize the scientist representations and discuss their evolution. This is combined with previous research on the image of scientists from 1958 to the present and our results are divided into four periods.


"You couldn't exactly say they're astronauts" : Understanding the initial fan response to Star Trek: the Original Series

Ingrid Ockert (The Science History Institute, United States)

We often assume that audiences learn about science through factual presentations, but on the television screen, science fiction and science fact often enfold into each other. Assuming that the audiences for these programs were the same, some producers present factual science materials within a subtly fictional setting. In this short talk, I focus on the history of the creation and reception of a postwar science fiction television show, Star Trek: The Original Series. Seeking to draw fans of ‘serious’ science television series, the creators of Star Trek used science to create a real world framework for their fantastic stories.


Fiction lagging behind or non-fiction defending the indefensible? University-industry (et al.) interaction in science fiction  

Joaquín M. Azagra-Caro (CSIC-Universitat Politècnica de València, Spain)

University-industry interaction has supporters and detractors in the scholarly literature. Whereas policymakers have mainly joined the former, science fiction authors have predominantly enrolled the latter. We illustrate how the genre has been critical to university-industry interaction via the analysis of the most positively acclaimed novels from the 1970s to date. We distinguish the analytical dimensions of type of conflict, and innovation helices involved other than university (industry, government, society). By doing so, we merge two streams of literature that had not encountered before: university-industry interaction and representations of science in popular culture. A methodological novelty is the creation of an objective corpus of the literature to increase external validity. Insights include the relevance of the time context, with milder views or disinterest on university-industry interaction in science fiction works after the passage of the Bayh-Dole Act; and the lack of an academic or policy narrative about the benefits of university-industry interaction so convincing as to permeate into popular culture. Discourse is crucial for legitimising ideas, and university-industry interaction may have not found the most appropriate yet.


Using Fiction to Engage with Science: the Bad Bugs Bookclub

Joanna Verran (Manchester Metropolitan University, UK)

The Bad Bugs Bookclub (established 2009) comprises scientists and non-scientists who read novels where infectious disease forms part of the plot. Discussion addresses participants’ impressions, the microbiology and disease epidemiology described within, and enables extension to contemporary (or historical) issues, such as antimicrobial resistance, the impact of vaccination and disease emergence. The website provides meeting reports and reading guides for almost sixty books. This presentation will provide a critical overview of the effectiveness of this bookclub format as a means for engaging different audience with science and literature (and will complement a marketplace stall focusing on the same topic).