Honorary Professor John Kenward Gilbert, 1940-2020

Publication date
Monday, 16 Mar 2020

Photo courtesy of the Tribute site for John.

It is with great sadness that we record the untimely death of Honorary Professor John Gilbert on 9th February 2020. John was a long term visitor to CPAS and co-editor of our second textbook, Communication and engagement with science and technology: Issues and dilemmas. He was an exceptional academic, whose research has inspired countless dissertations, books and papers.

Those of us who were fortunate enough to work closely with John saw at firsthand how his rigorous scholarship and broad knowledge of the field formed a framework for new and emerging ideas. His passion for research encompassed alternative conceptions, explanations, and analogies and modelling, which led to an abiding interest in the communication of science. John was appointed Professor at the University of Reading in 1998, a position he held until his retirement in 2005 when he was given Emeritus status. He was also a Visiting Professor at Kings College London.

John’s work in science education and in science communication was widely honoured. For many years he was Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Science Education, taking it to its current status as an important international journalHe campaigned strongly for the establishment of the International Journal of Science Education Part B: Communication and Public Engagement, becoming co-Editor in Chief with Professor Sue Stocklmayer. He took great pride in the high profile that the Journal has achieved, justifying his belief that there was, indeed, a niche to fill.

John became interested in science communication in the early 1990s. He visited CPAS many times in the past 25 years, offering advice and guidance to students and collaborating on academic papers and books. His very last book was a collaboration with Professor Sue Stocklmayer and Honorary Professor Leonie Rennie (Rennie, L.J., Stocklmayer, S.M. & Gilbert, J.K. (2019) Supporting Self-Directed Learning in Science and Technology Beyond the School Years. NY: Routledge).

His experiences at CPAS led John to found a science communication course at the University of Reading, which proved highly popular with students – he brought his own unique interactive brand of teaching to the program, involving science students in current science in the media and encouraging critical thinking about the world of science in general. 

John was a great academic.  He had a unique sense of humour, coupled with a gift for incisive synthesis and excellent scientific writing. It was as a warm and generous colleague, however, that he will be most remembered. He was fun to work with, a great friend of CPAS, and we shall miss him dearly. 

Vale Professor John Gilbert, scholar, colleague and friend.

Some CPAS Collaborations

Rennie, L.J., Stocklmayer, S.M., & Gilbert, J.K. (2019). Supporting self-directed learning in science and technology beyond the school years. New York: Routledge.
Gilbert, J.K. & Stocklmayer S.M. (Eds) (2013). Communication and engagement with science and technology: Issues and dilemmas.  NY: Routledge. (Translated into Japanese, 2015, Chinese 2019). Stocklmayer, S.M., Rennie, L.J. & Gilbert, J.K. (2010). The roles of the formal and informal sectors in the provision of effective science education. Studies in Science Education, 46, 1-44. 
  Stocklmayer,S., & Gilbert, J.K. (2005). The design of interactive exhibits to promote the making of meaning.  In J.K.Gilbert: Constructing worlds through science education. London: Routledge(pp. 173-182).Stocklmayer, S., & Gilbert, J.K. (2002). Informal chemical education.  In J.K.Gilbert, O. De Jong, R. Justi, D.F. Treagust, J.H. Van Driel (eds.). Chemical Education Towards Research-based Practice. Dordrecht: Kluwer (pp. 143-164) Stocklmayer, S.M., & Gilbert, J.K. (2002).  New experiences and old knowledge: towards a model for the public awareness of science. International Journal of Science Education, 24, 835-858. 

Note; A full tribute to John and his stellar career will be published in the forthcoming edition of the International Journal of Science Education: Part A.