Sensemaking practices around Coronavirus: a RETHINK led webinar

Wednesday 1 July at 10:00 – 11:30 CEST

As part of our mission to provide a 360° view of the current science communication landscape, our research team is investigating citizen sensemaking practices around science.

Although specific piece of research was initially expected to revolve around climate change, the current pandemic offered a unique opportunity that could not be missed. The COVID-19 outbreak put the spotlight on two interrelated trends that are profoundly changing the science-society relationship and complicating the public communication about science: 1) The boundaries between science and society are blurring leading to more collaboration, but also more controversy. 2) The digitalisation of the media landscape has created many diverse online arenas where science is openly contested, negotiated and transformed, by scientists and politicians, many other actors involved.

Under these circumstances, the way individuals and communities make sense of the COVID-19 outbreak is crucial. We all make sense of this complex reality from our own, limited and incomplete, perspective. What are the best strategies to build open and trustworthy relationships between science, media, politics and citizens? And what are the required roles and responsibilities of scientists and science communicators?

Details of the webinars and link to connect 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.

First Rethinkerspace in Bristol

In terms of interesting discussions from the first meeting, one of the themes that came up was how online science communication has transformed science communication from the from the cathedral, with few people communicating to large audiences, to the bazaar – many-to-many dynamic communication.

While this has been a force for good, allowing more diversity of voices in science communication, the transformation from the cathedral to the bazaar has also presented problems. For example there’s the problem of ‘fake goods’ – how do people know who to trust with accurate information? There’s also the cacophony of noises – an overload of information and sources of information online.

RETHINK kick-off meeting

RETHINK project partners and third parties met for the first time on 13-14 February 2019 at a farm in Koudekerk a/d Rijn, in the Netherlands. 22 participants joined the meeting. Besides discussing upcoming project activities, participants had the opportunity to get to know each other better, through activities such as appreciative inquiry walks, as well as envision future project outcomes through hands-on activities.