Call for papers: ‘booms’ of popular science publishing

We are seeking contributions to a one-day symposium on 20th century popular science: the morning devoted to the apparent post-Einstein boom in popular science publishing, the afternoon considering post-Hawking works. We are keen that this event should help foster connections between the wide range of people who study and think about popular science: historians, science communication researchers, professional scientists, science writers and literary critics. The event is to be held at Imperial College London on 31st March, 2010. It will comprise of a series of extended 30 minute talks, plus time for discussion.

The mention of Einstein and Hawking should not suggest an interest purely in the popularisation of physics, nor should it imply a focus on biographical details of their lives, celebrity-science, or challenges of relaying especially abstract ideas in text. We are merely using these two iconic names in the history of popular science as a starting point for broader discussion in what can be a very diffuse topic of inquiry and a prompt to interrogate the reality of so-called ‘booms’ in popular science publishing. Papers might explore the impact of other iconic scientists, popular science audiences, marginal scientists publishing through popular texts, the role of journalists and science-writers and/or the role played by publishers, reviewers and bookselling contexts. We should also note that we welcome papers which reflection on both the background context and long-term consequences of 20th century popular science. Papers on 19th or 21st century popular science publishing are still of interest, as long as they speak to themes raised by a 20th century focus.

The broad range of topics potential papers might discuss include (but are not limited to):

* Relationships between scientists and their publics.

* Celebrity, public intellectuals and popular science authorship.

* Marketing and the role of consumer culture.

* Issues of culture and social class.

* Writing for children.

* Implied epistemologies.

* Publishing processes and cultures.

* Outsider-scientist writers.

* Science and Religion.

* The audiences of popular science.

* Popular science’s impact on and reflection of science policy issues.

* Humour and comedy in science writing.

* Wonder and the sublime.

* Metaphor.

* Literary renderings of mathematics.

* Illustrations, diagrams, graphics and design.

Potential contributors should email a 500 word abstract (including, if necessary, bibliography) along with a 150 word biography to [email protected] by 11th December, 2009. We are planning a special issue for a scholarly journal such as the Public Understanding of Science, based on the event. If you would be unable to join us on the 31st of March, but are interested in submitting a paper for such a publication, it is worth dropping us an expression of interest. These, and all other queries to [email protected].