Are you interested to learn more about communicating science in relation to complex social issues? Do you want to challenge your assumptions, make new connections and contribute to open and trustworthy public conversations about science? Are you looking to increase your reach and impact? Then this science communication and journalism online Winter School is a great opportunity for you.
From 23 to 25 February 2022, the RETHINK project will organise a winter school for early career researchers, journalists, policy-makers, community leaders and all other agents of change who want to learn about communicating science in relation to complex social issues.
Over the span of three days, you will take different perspectives on these issues and the role of science communication and journalism. You will reflect on your own practice and discover the power of openness and reflexivity in public dialogue. Together with your fellow participants you will apply your insights into a high-quality product to open up your own communicative practice.
Note: Because of the measures around COVID-19, the Winter School will take place completely online.
Deadline for registration: 31 January 2022
Further information on the programme and registration are available on our partner’s website ECSITE.
Reflections from Andy Ridgway, Senior Lecturer in Science Communication, University of the West of England and RETHINK principal investigator
We’ve all been presented with difficult conundrums at some stage during the pandemic. Should I go to that Christmas party? Should I go to the pub when I know it might be packed? I really need a holiday, but do I run the risk of getting stuck abroad with a positive Covid test?
Within the RETHINK science communication research project we’ve been trying to unpick how people make decisions when they are faced with these continuing questions and uncertainties during the pandemic. What do they think about, what do they read and who do they listen to? This research into people’s ‘sense-making practices’ as they are described has provided some useful insights for science writers – but it’s also thrown up a thorny question.
Science communication continues to develop and change, as a discipline, practice and professional career path, with significant growth in both professional practice and academic study. Changes in the relationships between science and society and its increasing inclusion in official discourses have opened new opportunities for dialogue and collaboration. At the same time, this may have produced challenges for the authority of science, which can be openly contested, negotiated and transformed in public arenas.
This transformation of the relationships between science and society has been fundamentally intensified by the digitalization of the media landscape. New media have increased the diversity of actors using, sharing and generating science content, their communication practices and the strategies they use. Even though we witness a significant rise in the quantity of science communication circulating in all kinds of media – traditional/ new, mediated/ unmediated, we also acknowledge the major challenges the above mentioned developments pose for science communication. Within this background, RETHINK’s overall objective is to contribute to making the European science communication ecosystem more open, inclusive, reflexive and adaptive.
RETHINK Second Special Issue will therefore provide a significant contribution to the project’s overall aim, as it centers on ‘”responsible science communication – challenges for practice”. What does it mean to be a ‘responsible science’ communicator? Are there general criteria used to assess responsible science communication across the globe? What are the commonalities and the differences emerging when defining the characteristics of responsible science communication around the world? What is the contribution of inclusion, reflexivity and co-creation to responsible science communication practices? Can these concepts be considered the pillars of responsible science communication worldwide?
The second Jcom Special Issue entitled Responsible Science Communication across the globe will consist of papers and commentaries tackling three identified subthemes related to the responsible science communication main theme:
Responsible science communication = inclusion
Responsible science communication = reflexivity
Responsible science communication = co creation
Commentary section: responsible science communication around the globe. Contributions from authors across different geographical regions on what responsible science communication looks like in their context.
The RETHINK project has commissioned all papers and commentaries and expects to publish the Special Issue between April and May 2022.
Digitalisation and technological developments have contributed to various changes in the science communication landscape. Science communication practitioners are benefitting from new opportunities offered by digital media, but they are also facing new threats, like misinformation and declining trust in science. In addition, an increasing number of new actors are contributing to a diversity of science communication approaches. Traditional actors are giving way to new actors, and a critical public increasingly contributes to knowledge production and sharing. What does this changing science communication landscape entail, and how do different science communication practitioners navigate through novel opportunities and challenges?
In this symposium held on November 17th during the Science & You 2021, representatives of four European projects (RETHINK, ParCos, GlobalSCAPE and TRESCA) reflected on the evolving science communication landscape and the changing roles of various science communication actors. The symposium, moderated by Jason Pridmore, saw the participation of Tessa Roedema, who on behalf of RETHINK talked about the project’s sensemaking research and what these insights mean for the practice of science communication.
Navigating the changing science communication landscape
The RETHINK project aims to provide a new view of the science communication landscape to reveal the barriers that stand in the way of open and reflexive connections between science and society. Two different but interrelated trends lay to the basis of the RETHINK project: blurring boundaries between science and society, and digitalization. The implications of these trends for the fast-changing science communication ecosystem can be seen in the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has been difficult to manage and endure, as it is continuously surrounded by complexity and uncertainty. It needs insights from various scientific disciplines and it involves cultural, political, societal, economic and ethical dimensions. Second, digitalization has fundamentally changed how scientists, other R&I stakeholders and a variety of publics interact and communicate. New actors have entered the public discussion on science. Online, everyone seems to be an expert on the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also a place where widely diverse viewpoints, emotions and values are highlighted. The revolutionized, highly networked and digitalized science communication ecosystem presents science communicators with numerous opportunities, but also reveals lingering challenges. It has also placed a spotlight on individual sensemaking practices and raises difficult questions for citizens: Which information is true, flawed or even false? Which actors can I trust to determine what is true? How should I implement the sometimes uncertain or even contractionary information in my daily life?
The RETHINK project has established ‘Rethinkerspaces’ in 7 countries across Europe – local communities of practice that enabled a shared inquiry and transformative learning process. Together with our Rethinkerspaces we explore questions like: How can science communication practitioners adapt to the reality of citizens’ sensemaking practices, in order to support a constructive dialogue on science? We have mapped current science communication activities across Europe, and gained insights into challenges practitioners encounter and perspective they have on their (changed) role. Recently, we have conducted a study into sensemaking practices with citizens during the first wave of the pandemic. We believe that our insights into sensemaking practices of citizens help in enabling a reflexive practice for science communicators and other part-takers in public discussions on science, and to deal with the abundance of fragmented, incomplete and sometimes misleading information presented online.
Breaking the fear, breaking the barriers: The approaches and roles of science communicators when working with underserved audiences.
Inclusive science communication, or inclusive scicomm, is a global movement to shift the traditional paradigm of science communication toward an approach that centers inclusion, equity, and intersectionality. The biennial symposium is an international convening of practitioners, trainers, researchers, educators, funders, and others who work across diverse disciplines and settings to prioritize inclusion, equity, and intersectionality in all forms of science communication. View the ISCS21 Agenda at a Glance.
A survey of science communicators across Europe conducted within RETHINK showed that relatively few of those who communicate science (29%, n=465) seek to reach audiences who would be considered ‘underserved’ with their activities (Milani et al. 2020a). This presentation explored the result of interviews conducted with 32 science communicators in Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Sweden and the UK who had indicated that they sought to reach underserved audiences. They work as press officers, writers and journalists, researchers who communicate about their work, as well as public engagement officers. Interviewees described a wide range of audiences they considered or found harder to engage, such as those from certain socioeconomic backgrounds, older people, younger people, local communities, as well as those disinterested in science.
This presentation highlighted the approaches science communicators designed and undertook to change the dynamic between scientists and citizens, as well as roles being adopted by some of today’s science communicators that may help to foster connections with new audiences. It is now well-documented that when science is communicated, audiences are most typically white, affluent, with relatively high levels of formal education and a pre-existing interest in science (Dawson, 2019; Kennedy, Jensen and Verbeke, 2017; Humm, Schrögel and Leßmöllmann, 2020). The presentation focused on some of the practical steps being taken by science communicators to create closer connections between science and all members of society, so that the future trajectory of science may be informed by citizens as well as the scientific community.
Join a mini idea-thon facilitated by our project partner Ecsite and work in a group with five professional peers over four, weekly sessions on practical science engagement case studies and creative challenges to try out new conceptual tool design by the RETHINK project.
The central concept of the Workroom will be following the sensemaking theory – which explores how people make sense of science and the world by bridging the gaps in their knowledge with previous experiences, expectations, emotions, values and interests.
As part of the RETHINK project, researchers have been exploring how sensemaking can be applied to science engagement – and they believe that it opens new ways of interacting with audiences, whether new or old. They have also identified a series of roles and repertoires used in science communication, a useful way to reflect on your own practice and expand your palette.
Join us to explore new ways of interacting with your audiences and harvest ideas for engagement with new and underserved audiences. After getting familiar with the theory, you’ll work as part of a small team of practitioners and explore what sensemaking, roles and repertoires could bring to a specific science engagement challenge. You’ll be able to “pitch” your own case study for group work or learn a lot by putting your creativity at the service of someone else.
Invited experts, as champions and disruptors will be helping teams throughout their four-week creative process, and there will also be time for reflective moments on your own practice and discussion on how we can begin bringing ideas back to our daily professional lives. The Workroom will culminate in a final (and joyful!) pitch session where promising ideas will be harvested and shared with the wider science engagement community.
The Workroom will be held online on 9, 16, 23 and 30 November. Creative sessions will take place between 13:30 and 16:30 CET. Some individual work between sessions will be required, which should take up to 60 minutes each week. All science engagement professionals that want to commit to experimenting together are eligible to participate.
The Workroom is free of charge and places are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
RETHINK took part in the Future of Scicomm conference with the Workshop“Rethinking Science Communication – how to integrate research and practice for effective and responsible science communication”, led by Dr. Frank Kupper (Athena Institute for Research on Innovation and Communication in Health and Life Sciences, VU Amsterdam), Aleksandra Kowalska (Ecsite) and Dr. Birte Fähnrich (Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities/Zeppelin University).
The Future of Science Communication Conference brings together European actors from research and practice of science communication. It is co-organised by Wissenschaft im Dialog, the organization for science communication in Germany, and ALLEA, the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities. In 2021 the conference took place online on 24-25 June.
The workshop dealt with questions of open science and participation by focussing on the field of science communication itself. In recent years, science communcation research and practice have developed significantly. However, platforms for mutual exchange and reflection of both fields have been rare. As a consequence, practice often does not reflect research based evidence and research overlooks concerns and challenges of the practice. We argue that science communication research and practice should jointly develop new forms of exchange, mutual reflection and participation as to enhance effective and responsible science communication.
To this end, the workshop presented a participatory format of research-practice interaction that has been developed and applied in seven European countries in the context of the Horizon 2020-funded project RETHINK. The format called RETHINKER spaces brings researchers and practitioners from different fields of science communication together to adress mutual expectations and needs. RETHINKER spaces are a valuable platform to gather data and to discuss research findings, also with regard to their applicablility to the day-to-day routines of science communicators.
During the workshop, we 1) shared insights and learnings, 2) asked participants to contribute their experiences and 3) used this as a starting point for a world cafe setting to develop new ideas on how to open up science communication research and practice in the future.
We are pleased to announce the publication of the first JCOM Special Issue on “Re-examining Science Communication: models, perspectives, institutions.”
While science communication may be more important than ever, it is also more challenging. The boundaries between science and society are blurring and digitalization transforms the public sphere. Changes in the relationship between science and society and its increasing inclusion in official discourses have opened new opportunities for dialogue and collaboration. At the same time, this may have produced challenges for the authority of science, which can be openly contested, negotiated, and transformed in public arenas. This transformation of the relationships between science and society has been fundamentally intensified by the digitalization of the media landscape. New media have increased the diversity of actors using, sharing and generating science content, their communication practices and the strategies they use.
This JCOM special issue aims to rethink science communication considering its ever-changing landscape, building on the European Commission’s focus on science communication within the “Science with and for Society” (SwafS) Work Programme. It is a joint initiative of three EU-funded projects: RETHINK, CONCISE and QUEST.
We welcomed manuscripts with different backgrounds and methodological approaches that explored the state-of-the-art of science communication, its challenges and opportunities, and that proposed tools, strategies and methodologies to open up the field wider to society and to research as well as non-research institutions.
Research papers, essays and review papers considering issues under the following themes were particularly welcome:
The emerging science communication landscape and the roles and relationships of institutions, scientists and science communicators (online and offline)
Trends and variations in science communication models and practices across contexts
How do publics navigate and engage in the science communication landscape?
Motivations and challenges in engagement practices of scientists and science communicators (online and offline)
Science communication policies: incentive structures for scientists, journalists, museums
Quantity vs. quality, digitalization of the media and the spread of misinformation
The role of science communication to promote engaged research and participatory science
The call opened on July 30th and the deadline for submissions was 16 November 2020, with the Special Issue being published in May 2021. We have received a total of 45 papers from 23 countries.
This online workshop series is aimed at engaging the community of science communication professionals and scholars in order to reflect on the latest research outcomes together. This is a great opportunity to hear more about the latest research findings in the field and to meet and reflect together on the most useful tools for the community. There will be lots of interaction, digital post-its and an ambition for shared outcomes. Join us to become our critical friend.
#3 Connecting with Underserved Audiences: Creating Conversations and Trust
It is now well-documented that when science is communicated, audiences are most typically white, affluent, with relatively high levels of formal education and a pre-existing interest in science. But how can we challenge that in our practices and as a sector? Join two members of the RETHINK team, Andy Ridgway and Clare Wilkinson, to explore the approaches and roles being adopted by some of today’s science communicators that may help to foster connections with new or underserved audiences. And in collaboration with Vanessa Mignan, take the opportunity to explore your own practices and intentions when seeking to engage inclusively and innovatively.
Led by Andy Ridgway, Dr Clare Wilkinson –University of the West of England
29 September 2021, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. CET
Video recording available below
#2 Good quality science communication in a digital world
The so called infodemic around Covid 19 and the rise of misinformation has raised once more the need for quality science communication. However, the demands for “quality science communication“ leave the question of what this actually means unanswered.
Questions arise, such as: what is good science communication online? Are there criteria to assess science communication quality? And how do they differ when we compare, for instance, science media reporting, science podcasts or scicomm stories on Instagram, to name but few examples?
The workshop aims to address these questions in a discursive way. To this end, we will present results from a Delphi study that explored issues around quality in science communication in digital contexts. In the course of the study approx. 30 science communication scholars from around the globe shared their perspectives on how to assess and how to promote science communication quality online.
This workshop will provide an opportunity to hear about the research findings and discuss their implications. We anticipate focusing particularly on how quality criteria could be applied by actors ranging from university press officers to bloggers. All of whom are increasingly prevalent in the digital sphere.
Led by Dr Emma Weitkamp – University of the West of England, Dr Birte Fähnrich – Zeppelin University
10May 2021, 14:00 – 16:00 CET
Video recording available below
#1 Making sense of (mis)information in a digital world
The first workshop will look at the research results related to how insights into sensemaking could help us deal with the abundance of fragmented, incomplete and sometimes misleading information. We will present the results of 7 European workshops with science communicators that explored the issue of making sense of the COVID-19 pandemic. How science communicators can adapt to the reality of sensemaking practices to support dialogue about the pandemic? And how can we support each other to move forward? All of these and other questions will be explored in an interactive workshop aimed at sharing best practices and inspiring future research activities.
Led by Dr Frank Kupper, Virgil Rerimassie, Tessa Roedema – Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
When I started teaching science writing after spending years as a journalist, I wanted to share my experience, my way of doing things, in the classroom. But I quickly struck upon a problem. What did I actually do? How did I find and research stories? How did I choose interviewees? I had been doing all of these things for so long (and often at speed) that the process I followed had become automatic – not the stuff of conscious thought. It took a fair bit of reflection to unravel the processes that had become so hardwired so I could try to explain them in the classroom. When we are conducting research as science communicators, a lot of our decisions come down to who and what we trust. What sources can we rely on for fact and who can we rely on for opinion? In reality, faced with the pressures of time, as communicators we typically rely on a limited range of sources – the likes of peer reviewed papers, the scientists directly involved with the research (or at least someone in their field) and possibly the odd press release. But how many of us give conscious thought in our working day to what we trust and why? How often are we open to ideas, perspectives and knowledge that come from outside our usual circle of trust?
It’s questions such as these that are at the heart of our the latest report .This report synthesised research we had already done to consider the ‘openness’ and ‘reflexivity’ of science communicators and also of citizens; those who read, watch or listen to what we create. How open are we to a wide range of information, ideas and perspectives? And how reflexive are we, consciously thinking about where we search for information, how that influences the information we find and then how choices we make influence what we write or create?
A guiding principle of RETHINK is that openness and reflexivity on the part of communicators, citizens, scientists and everyone else for that matter are a good thing – helping to create a more effective exchange of ideas and knowledge. On their own, all of these principles sound straightforward. Source information you can trust. Be open. Be reflexive. It’s just that when you put all those ideas together, things start to get complicated.
A survey of the working practices of science communicators we conducted earlier in RETHINK shows that academic journals, university press releases and personal contacts are consulted widely during research. After all, these are sources we can trust for the most part. But if this is what we always do as communicators, often without conscious thought (or reflexivity) it limits the opportunities for readers, viewers and listeners to be exposed to different information and perspectives. So it is in the implementation of these principles that things get challenging. How prepared are we as communicators to step outside our research comfort zone and take information from sources, from people, we wouldn’t usually consult? When would we want to do this? Are there circumstances when it’s more appropriate than others? After all, openness on the part of science communicators doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll simply report information and opinions from anyone. There’s a widely circulated quote (that’s been attributed to several people) that may apply here: “Let us keep our minds open…but don’t keep your minds so open that your brains fall out!”
Our new RETHINK report also explores how open and reflexive citizens are when they are interpreting information about science. Specifically, it looked at their ‘sensemaking practices’ in relation to coronavirus – sensemaking being the process by which we develop an understanding of something complex. It showed that there is some evidence of openness, with people consulting a range of newspapers and websites to help them triangulate information and understand what’s happening. But in many instances, citizens’ sensemaking practices are understandably heavily influenced by their context – they speak with friends, family, find information from online social media groups they’re part of and have a limited range of online sources they trust. They are also unlikely to shift from pre-existing beliefs during this sensemaking process. In other words, some sensemaking is not particularly open, or particularly reflexive for that matter.
So what we can do about all this? How can we as science communicators become open and reflexive in what we do in a way that’s compatible with the need to source trustworthy information? And is there anything we can do to encourage others, those who watch, listen or read what we create, to be open and reflexive too? Let’s have an (open and reflexive) conversation about this – tweet us at @RETHINKscicomm @SciCommsUWE with your thoughts and ideas.