What motivates science communicators, how do they work and who are their audiences?

In the last months we have been working hard on some of the project’s research questions. Four reports were produced investigating how science communicators work, what motivates them, what incentivises them, how they interact with their audiences and even looking at the available training programmes on science communication.

Two reports were led by UWE Bristol and they looked on the one hand-side at the motivations for science communicators and on the other hand at the audiences for science communication. Why do those who blog, tweet, run events at festivals, give talks and engage in all the myriad of other forms of science communication do what they do? Who do those who communicate science aim to reach when they produce their content and what barriers stand in the way of reaching these audiences? We try to answer these questions in the Report on the Working Practices, Motivations and Challenges of those Engaged in Science Communication and the one on the Links between science communication actors and between actors and their audiences. Another important aspect of the science communication landscape is the training on offer, we analysed the status quo and demands for science communication training, this work was lead by Zeppelin University.

VU looked into the motivations of scientists to engage with the public, online or offline. Why do they decide to engage with the public and what holds them back? The full report on Incentive and disincentive structures for R&I stakeholders to engage in science communication can be found here.

First RETHINK research outcome published

UWE Bristol Science Communication unit have led the substantial work on mapping the vast science communication terrain in 7 European countries (Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and Serbia as well as the UK.). The focus was on online content from tweeting to vlogging and

given the terrain’s scale, we decided to set some boundaries to our exploration. Firstly, we decided to concentrate on three topic areas – climate change, artificial intelligence and healthy diets. These topics were selected because they are important to all our lives. But they also represent very different online habitats; with different individuals and organisations doing the communicating and very diverse subject matter.

So what did we find? Well, across the seven countries, 697 different individuals and organisations that communicate climate change, artificial intelligence and healthy diets were identified. Digging into the data in a little more detail provides some interesting insights, including:

  • Climate change has the widest range of individuals and organisations communicating about it online of the three topics. In other words, it has a particularly rich communication environment.
  • The online science communication landscape is complex – there are large differences in the types of communicators, the platforms used and content shared between science-related subjects.
  • With all three topics, many of the sources of information are not traditional experts, such as scientists or health practitioners. Nor are they traditional mediators of information, such as journalists. There are lots of alternative sources of information, such as non-professional communicators and support communities.

Want to find out more? The full report can be found here.