The issue with science comics: uncritical pictures and beliefs of analysis

Lecturers are more and more utilizing comedian books to show and talk science, whilst sturdy, unbiased proof of the effectiveness of doing so is lacking.

A latest overview discovered that empirical analysis on the effectiveness of comics in science communication stays scarce and recommends extra research.

The underlying assumption in most of such research is that analysis solely must learn how finest to impart scientific information to readers although comics.

What they usually ignore or skim over is the precise framing and beliefs of science that’s being communicated: the potential for uncritical promotion of science, even scientism, in addition to clichés and established top-down narratives to be replicated by comics.

A key downside for science comics could also be that they’re usually written by scientists who’re eager to advertise their work, and due to this fact would possibly lack objectivity.

Farinella’s overview discovered that the creation and examine of science comics has been pushed by a couple of scientists, artists and educators, who usually use the identical comics in their very own observe of communication/schooling. The overview additionally discovered that the standard of these research is variable and that the evaluation of the outcomes might lack objectivity.

Such research usually uncritically embrace using comics as an thrilling means of speaking science. Farinella’s overview, for instance, strongly means that comics have nice potential for participating extensive and numerous audiences with science and easily recommends extra analysis into determining what methods will work finest in speaking science to the plenty.

These research assume a priori that each one science is nice and worthy of being promoted as broadly as doable through comics, probably taking us again to the non-critical downstream mannequin of science communication. They hardly ever, if ever, really tackle critically the content material of those comics or science itself.

Additionally, they assume that the producers of science ought to disseminate their findings and messages the best way they need, disregarding inherent subjectivity/agenda/biases and many others. And, they assume that sugarcoating science content material on this uncommon and enjoyable medium might succeed the place extra conventional methods of science communication fail.

Actually, a lot of the sphere of examine into science comics since my main overview in 2009 has been about evaluating their success in conveying scientific information and ideas: devising the best technique to make use of comics as only one extra strategy to fill the general public’s ‘empty vessel’ with scientific content material, due to this fact probably making comics simply one other strand of the deficit mannequin of science communication.

Science comics

Comedian books are sometimes being created, used and studied by the identical individuals who produce the science they then wish to talk, usually neglecting any unbiased evaluation of what’s being communicated and the way.

Because of this as science communication teachers are speeding to ‘show’ that science comics are efficient, and determine the right way to make them much more efficient, whereas forgetting to deal with an entire host of questions surrounding their use in science communication.

For instance: what picture of science do these comics painting and transmit? Who decides what picture of science goes into such comics or how they’re framed? How do these comics characterize science and scientists, and the way would possibly this have an effect on readers, apart from the reported pleasure of kids round utilizing comics in science lessons?

There’s a hazard that using comics in science communication may find yourself backfiring, selling clichés or changing into part of a deficit mannequin quite than a extra progressive technique of engagement with the general public.

My very own examine of science comics discovered that comics current ambivalent pictures of science, with phrases and pictures usually sending out conflicting meanings: for instance, science is portrayed as each enchanting and disenchanting. As a substitute of presenting a hard and fast view of science, academic science comics are an enviornment the place the general public which means of science is actively being labored out.

Whereas scientists are sometimes portrayed as folks in lab coats and glasses, utilizing clichéd instruments of expertise and information, they’re additionally usually portrayed by numerous characters, therefore sustaining some stereotypes while dispelling others.

Scientists and comedian guide creators themselves are actively deciding what data and framing of science are included, with out essentially considering by or difficult their assumptions or aiming to current an goal, balanced view of science.

In abstract, the sphere of examine of science comics largely contains scientists and educators themselves each producing comedian books and learning their impacts, with out the required distance of a important, disengaged observer.


Farinella, M. (2018). The potential of comics in science communication. JCOM 17

Tatalovic, M. (2009), Science comics as instruments for science schooling and communication: a short, exploratory examine. JCOM

Tatalovic, M. (2009), Communication of Science and Illustration of Science and Scientists in Science Comics, Imperial School MSC dissertation. 

Mićo Tatalović
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