594   Individual paper

Idea(l)s and gaps of researchers' and in-house communication professionals' science communication collaboration

Author: Kaisu Koivumäki
University of Oulu, Finland

Increasingly researchers regard communication with the publics as their responsibility whilst the academic community takes on engagement with the digital public sphere. But how are the responsibilities of research communication managed within the research organizations? One may even ask if mediators are needed anymore since researchers may govern and transform their public science-society relations through social media connections they have at their fingertips?

However, the perceived responsibility does not necessarily translate to a ‘duty’ that is integral to researchers’ work. Digital media outreach may be an occupational challenge for the researchers whilst organizational distances between communication professionals and researchers sometimes occur.

This paper presents preliminary findings of an analysis of semi-structured interviews of 15 in-house science communication professionals and 17 researchers from five research organizations in Finland. With the aim to enhance the collaboration, that constitutes organizational science communication, this study focused on understanding how are the complexities in researchers’ and professionals’ collaboration.

Results show that interviewees preferred researchers before communication professionals to communicate science. However, researchers clearly state, that professionals are still needed, but their role needs to change. Professionals were regarded as highly relevant in encouraging and couching the researchers’ online communication efforts, whilst uncertainties around the role of the researchers occurred. Therefore surprisingly, many interviewees were willing to exclude reflexive discussions of science-society relations from communication training, saying that these are duties of others, not researchers.
 
The findings highlight gaps between science communication conceptualizations and organizational realities, that question the academic institutions’ capabilities to contribute with scientific knowledge to societal discussions online. Developments in digital practice, academia and society call for scholarly integration of functional and socio-cultural perspectives of science public relations research. Practical implications enhance understanding of transformations in science communication practices and professions.

Co-author: Timo Koivumäki
University of Oulu, Finland

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