JCOM: submit papers on re-examining science communication

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 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.

Aiming to understand the implications of the above mentioned changes at different levels of the science communication ecosystem, and how to address the challenges that arise to improve science communication quality, the Journal of Science Communication invites researchers around the globe to submit papers for a Special Issue on Re-examining Science Communication: models, perspectives, institutions

We welcome manuscripts with different backgrounds and methodological approaches that explore the state-of-the-art of science communication, its challenges and opportunities, and that propose 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 are 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

This Special Issue of JCOM builds on recent European Commission attention to science communication within the “Science with and for Society” (SwafS) Work Programme. The special issue is an initiative of three EU-funded projects CONCISE, QUEST and RETHINK.

Deadline for submissions: 31 October 2020 (publication is expected in February 2021)

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.

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.

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.