“At least we’re trying”: Experimenting with roles and repertoires to foster new connections between science and society

Sem Barendse, Virgil Rerimassie, Tessa Roedema & Frank Kupper

The aim of this report is to explore the different roles science communicators assume – or should be assuming – to meet the challenges and demands in the contemporary science communication landscape. On the basis of earlier RETHINK research on how science communicators employ innovative techniques to reach underserved audiences, six roles were formulated that can be – and are – adopted by science communication practitioners to enhance their connections with a wider range of audiences: The Broker, creates connections between target audience and actors to obtain access to a target group, links with other actors to supply, involves all actors in dialogue; The Listener, connects to target audience with active listening and empathy and integrates that what is learned in communication activity; The Includer, breaks down physical, social, cultural barriers to give audience access to resources, spaces, knowledge & opportunities; The Enabler, provides target audience with access to information, resources, spaces, and changes power dynamics between science-society; The Educator, contributes to understanding scientific method and process, and critical thinking skills leading to misinformation identification; and The Entertainer, gets scientific communication across via games, arts, performances, hands-on activities & storytelling.

Strategies towards a reflective practice for science communicators

Tessa Roedema, Kelly Streekstra, Evi Berendrecht, Yvon de Vries, Eline Ramaaker, Kaisa Schoute, Virgil Rerimassie & Frank Kupper

Opening up sensemaking practices is a process of importance in the current complexity of the world. During this research a high variety of activities were initiated and analysed, and in this deliverable we made an early start of describing how these activities combine into the strategies that open up sensemaking practices. What’s more, the reflective practice and exploration of openness was evaluated as significantly valuable by the participating science communicators. Participants stated their efforts during this research had beneficial effects on their communication activities and in connecting with their audiences in a more profound way, and many shared that they would like to continue with experimenting with reflective practice. Therefore, in order to help out science communicators in these efforts, more tools and exemplary practices can be created, and are requested by the science communication community. This contribution is what the last phases of the RETHINK project will strive to work for.

Opportunities and barriers for strengthening the quality of interaction between science and society

Frederik Langkjær and Peter Hyldgård

The RETHINK project aims to enhance science communication so that it creates and supports open and productive interactions between science and society. This aim is motivated by two recent and interrelated developments that highlight the need for rethinking science communication, namely the blurring boundaries between science and society and digitalization.
In order to meet this need, it is crucial to understand more about the science communication ecosystem: Who communicates what to whom, how, why and on which conditions? How do people make sense of complex science-related problems? How are professional science communicators trained? And what is ‘good’ quality science communication in a digital media landscape? In order to address these questions, this report provides a cross-cutting analysis of the research done in RETHINK on these areas so far, with the aim of creating a solid foundation for future development of science communication fostering a more fruitful interaction between science and society in general.

Reaching Underserved Audiences:
How Science Communicators are Making New Connections Using Innovative Techniques

Elena Milani, Andy Ridgway, Clare Wilkinson, Emma Weitkamp

In this research, we interviewed science communicators about the strategies they use to reach, communicate and connect with underserved and disinterested audiences. The interviews we conducted provide an insight into the creativity that many science communication practitioners employ in their work when seeking to reach underserved or disinterested audiences. The successes they described may provide inspiration and encouragement to others in the field and a sense of optimism that meaningful connections can be created with diverse science publics. This is important in the field of science communication where there is still much to be done in relation to inclusivity.

Making sense of the COVID-19 pandemic: An analysis of the dynamics of citizen sensemaking practices across Europe

Virgil Rerimassie, Tessa Roedema, Lisa Augustijn, Amelie Schirmer & Frank Kupper

The aim of this report is to explore how European citizens make sense of the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to do so, we conducted 81 in-depth interviews with citizens, during the first wave of the pandemic. Participants came from eight European countries: Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal,
Serbia, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Following the Sensemaking Methodology (SMM) developed by Dervin (2008), during these interviews we explored how citizens made sense of so-called micromoments: specific moments in which they stumbled upon questions and uncertainties relating to the

Report on the barriers and opportunities for opening up sensemaking practices

Andy Ridgway, Elena Milani, Clare Wilkinson, Emma Weitkamp

Sensemaking is the process by which citizens develop an understanding of a complex reality. In this report, we attempt to consider the implications of the motivations and working practices of science communicators and the ways in which citizens make sense of science for the connections between science and society. This is achieved by exploring the barriers and opportunities to open and reflexive sensemaking practices. It is through open and reflexive sensemaking practices that closer, more effective interactions can take place between science and society, thereby facilitating RRI.

Report on experts’ views on current science communication quality and demand

Birte Fähnrich

A Delphi study was conducted to examine experts’ opinions on questions of science communication quality online. Results of the first wave of the Delphi showed that experts hold very different perspectives on both actual quality criteria as well as the ways in which quality standards can be promoted and secured.. The second wave, however, revealed more commonalities and shared perspectives with regards to generalizable
quality standards and approaches to differentiate quality demands in different situational settings.

Investigating the links between science communication actors and between actors and their audiences

Elena Milani, Andy Ridgway, Clare Wilkinson, Emma Weitkamp

The audiences reached by those engaged in science communication and the nature of the connections with those audiences is of central importance to the science-society relationship. It determines who is reading, listening and watching information about science but also characterises those interactions. Do the interactions involve a one-directional ‘broadcast’ of information from communicator to audience, or is the relationship more of a two-way approach that fosters a more integrated relationship between science and society?

Report on the Working Practices, Motivations and
Challenges of those Engaged in Science Communication

Elena Milani, Andy Ridgway, Clare Wilkinson, Emma Weitkamp

The working practices of those engaged in the communication of science to non-expert audiences has important implications for the relationship between science and society. The research presented here explores these working practices and the motivations that underpin them across a wide range of science communicators in Europe. As such, it provides an insight into the nature of contemporary science communication and those who are involved with it. To find out about the working practices of science communicators, an online questionnaire was distributed in seven European countries; Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Sweden and the UK. The largest number of respondents were press officers, followed by freelance communicators/writers and journalists/editors. The survey also gathered responses from researchers, university lecturers and professors as well as some who communicate science predominantly online, such as bloggers, YouTubers and social media influencers.

Report on incentive and disincentive structures for R&I stakeholders to engage in science communication

Tessa Roedema; Virgil Rerimassie; Frank Kupper

The contemporary science communication ecosystem is complex: science and society meet each other at
multiple interfaces, communication takes place in multiple directions and moreover, the different actors may
have widely differing ideologies and assumptions. In addition, digitalization is intensifying the – already
complex – dynamics in this ecosystem fundamentally. At the same time, digitalization also offers novel
possibilities for scientists and scientific institutions to communicate and engage with the public and other
stakeholders, and henceforth contribute to a better science-society relationship. Against this backdrop, this
study aims to examine what motivates scientists to engage with the public through the internet and online
media, and what holds them back herein.

Analysis of the status quo and demands for science communication training

Birte Fähnrich

WP 3.1 provides an overview of academic science communication programs in four RETHINK partnering countries (UK, the Netherlands, Portugal, Italy) and Russia to analyze how available programs cope with the challenges of the “new” complex and digitalized communication environments. Based on a small sample study of 12 programs we show that science communication education is adapting promisingly to the new science communication landscape and related changes, and aims at teaching the students a profound understanding of the complexities of the new science communication dynamics. Programs largely implement content about digitalization and recent developments in their programs, although they rate their importance differently. However, related risks of science communication online are only taught to some extent, by encouraging students´ critical thinking about sources of information and interaction processes between communicators. We identified that most programs assess science communicator roles in line with co-creation and interaction with the public, but some programs also imply more traditional communicator roles of information disseminators. We can conclude that programs, overall, aim at providing their graduates with specific knowledge, competences and attitudes that will help them to serve as professional communicators in an increasingly complex science communication environment. However, further research is needed to assess how programs can ideally implement modules to convey the challenges of digitalization successfully to students. 

Scoping Report on the Science Communication Ecosystem

Andy Ridgway

Data collector(s)

Milani, Elena; Roedema, Tessa F. L.; Doedens, Mariël; Mazzonetto, Marzia; Sielicka-Baryłka, Klara; Lobo Antunes, Joana; Bohlin, Gustav; Bergman, Martin

The Scoping Report on the Science Communication Ecosystem represents an attempt to map the diversity of actors and the content they produce. The research conducted allows comparisons of the online science communication landscapes in different European countries (Italy, the Netherlands, the UK, Sweden, Poland, Serbia and Portugal) and has a broad focus; not only including the work of professional science communicators but also ‘alternative’ science communicators.