RETHINK research on underserved audiences presented at Inclusive SciComm Symposium – October 16th

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.

IDEA-THON: sensemaking applied to science engagement practice

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.

Register here until 26 October 2021

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.

Register here until 26 October 2021 – or until all places have been filled.

RETHINK at Future of SciComm Conference – June 25th

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.

#1 JCOM Special Issue published

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.

Open access to the accepted papers here: