Using games to engage the community on global science issues

02/09/2020 | 3 mins

Science holds the key to solving some of the world’s most complex problems and improving lives but a scientist from The University of Western Australia has been researching why some major advancements in science still struggle to engage and connect with the community.

Dr Sam Illingworth, from UWA’s School of Biological Sciences and an expert in science communication, said the complexity of science meant it was often difficult to communicate in a way that was engaging.

“Advancements in science can be lost on audiences if they are difficult to understand, aren’t broadly accessible or are not communicated in a way that means something to people or demonstrates how it affects their lives,” he said.

“Climate change is a big issue affecting our population and looking after our environment is really key to our survival, but it’s a complex issue.”

Dr Sam Illingworth

“It’s important that we as scientists consider how we engage in two‐way communication that both informs people of our research but also seeks their engagement and feedback to help us create new knowledge and ways to use that research to better our future.”

Dr Illingworth’s latest project, a card game called Carbon City Zero,uses a concept from his research that by using things people find enjoyable, engaging and can relate to, such as art and entertainment, science can have a greater impact and relevance to a broader range of people.

Carbon City Zero was developed with climate charity Possible. The game involves players working together to develop a zero carbon society. Taking on the role of city mayors, players must collaborate in order to build sustainable cities and develop resources and technology to help them achieve their mission.

“Climate change is a big issue affecting our population and looking after our environment is really key to our survival, but it’s a complex issue,” Dr Illingworth said.

“This is where Carbon City Zero comes in - a powerful learning experience, which is communicated via the intricate mechanics of the game, to bring science alive in a broadly accessible way to non-scientific audiences, and help people to start having the conversations that are needed to motivate action.

“Developing a city with zero carbon emissions is an extremely complex process, one which involves balancing multiple issues with the needs of various stakeholders, from safe commuting options to sustainable power generation.

“Solving these issues cannot be done by scientists and policymakers alone and will require buy-in from the community.

“Through the game audiences learn about global environmental issues, but also about why engagement and collaboration is needed across multiple sectors, from industry to government to public, and the important role they have to play.”

Media references

Simone Hewett, UWA Media & PR Manager, 08 6488 3229 / 0432 637 716

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