769   Linked papers

The landscape of European science communication: A field in transformation?

This panel seeks to open a conversation about the status of scholarship and practice in science communication across Europe today. Based on research carried out for the European-funded project QUEST, which explores and tests ideas about quality in science communication and which runs from 2019-2021, it showcases work on the contemporary norms of science communication practice and on the research landscape as a whole. This work focuses on four areas: science communication scholarship (Davies); contemporary science journalism (Wells); social media practice (Zolla et al); and science museum practice (Roche et al). By providing a snapshot of European norms, practices, challenges, and concerns in each of these areas, the panel will open up discussion about the overall landscape of European science communication. What is the ‘state of the art’ in public communication of science? Are there shared challenges and concerns across Europe and across formats? And does it even make sense to talk about ‘science communication’ as a coherent set of activities and knowledge at all?


Author: Sarah Davies
Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway

A fractured field: The landscape of science communication scholarship

This paper reports on a set of 16 semi-structured interviews carried out in 2019 with key scholars and teachers of science communication across Europe, with the aim of outlining the landscape of European science communication scholarship. Interviews covered interviewees’ views about contemporary science communication, key concepts, and knowledge gaps. Based on qualitative, discourse-oriented analysis of these interviews, I argue that (European) science communication is, as a field of academic study, fractured and inconsistently networked. Interviewees significantly diverged in approach, disciplinary orientation, views on the purpose of their scholarship, and ideological position. Often, they referenced different scholarly networks and/or were unaware of each other’s activities. Science communication is thus not an established discipline working in a widely shared paradigm, but is fragmented along a number of lines (between theory and practice, national contexts, or epistemologies). I illustrate and expand on these findings in two ways: first, I offer the example of how interviewees talked about the role of science communication in society, identifying very different imaginations of this often taken-for-granted backdrop to research into public communication of science. Second, I reflect on implications of this assessment. Against concerns about the vulnerability of academic science communication, and its status as a proto- or multi-discipline (Gascoigne et al 2010; Priest 2010; Trench 2012), does it matter that scholars work along divergent lines, often unaware of each other? Should we, or should we not, be concerned about the relative incoherence of European science communication scholarship?

The Contemporary Landscape of Science Communication – what is the role of the science journalist?

Co-author: Rebecca Wells
City University of London, United Kingdom

Contemporary science journalism faces many of the same challenges as all other forms of journalism – declining print sales and advertising revenue; the increasing power of digital platforms; rapid changes due to technological innovation. Science journalists, however, face particular challenges in their work. One of these is linked to long debates in the academic literature on science communication about the role of journalists in the communication of science. In this paper we use data from 18 semi-structured interviews carried out in 2019 with participants from 6 European countries involved in the production of science journalism. Drawing on the qualitative analysis of this data we explore the views of participants on the role of journalism in science communication in the context of academic literature on the same subject. We argue that science journalists in the contemporary journalistic landscape are expected to inhabit a variety of roles. This is the case within their journalistic practices, where they are expected to produce content for multiple platforms and formats, from producer to presenter; book author, blogger, podcaster and reporter. It is also the case in their role in society, where science journalists described themselves as both cheerleaders for science, translators of science and science’s watchdog. Given concerns raised both by our interviewees and by the literature in this area (Goepfert, 2007; Dunwoody, 2008; Williams and Gajevic, 2013) regarding increasing science PR activity and the reliance of science journalists on it for their content, is it possible for science journalists to continue to inhabit these many roles? If we argue that it is no longer possible then can science journalism still fulfil the obligation that a democratic society places on it? Authors: Rebecca Wells & Suzanne Franks Presenter: Rebecca Wells

Contemporary landscape of science communication on online social media

Co-author: Fabiana Zollo
Università Ca, Italy

The advent of social media has changed the way in which we access information and form our opinions. Nowadays, news organisations have adopted social media platforms as a means to distribute news and connect with their audiences. Social media amplify users’ ability to communicate and provide feedback, thus changing their role in both information consumption and production. Science communication (SC) has not been exempted from such changes, with diverse actors embracing public communication online. This paper aims to make use of massive quantitative analysis to take a snapshot of the current situation of SC on online social media. We consider how social media are used across European countries on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, while also considering a diverse range of SC content producers. The final dataset includes more than 700 sources, standing as the largest multi-platform dataset to exist to date, to our knowledge. Based on the analysis of content over time, we show that SC on social media has been increasing over the years. We observe that some countries display a preference to publish cont —climate change, vaccines, and AI— noting that the first two (very controversial) topics reach more people than AI on all platforms, although users interact with AI content more frequently than in the other cases. Our findings provide important insights on the overall landscape of SC on European social media, paving the way towards the design of tailored communication strategies to improve SC quality and effectiveness. Authors: Ana Lucía Schmidt, Enrico Costa, Roberta Villa, Walter Quattrociocchi, & Fabiana Zollo Presenter: Fabiana Zollo

Science Communication in informal learning environments: The European Researchers\\

Co-author: Joseph Roche
Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

European Researchers’ Night is an annual, pan-European event first initiated by the European Commission in 2005. Taking place in more than 300 cities across 30 countries on the last Friday of September each year, it is designed to bring researchers closer to the general public, increase awareness of European research, support the public recognition of researchers, create an understanding of the impact of researchers’ work on citizens’ daily life, and encourage young people to embark on scientific careers. This paper will demonstrate ongoing work to evaluate this event in Ireland over the past six years. As part of the European-funded project QUEST, which explores and tests ideas about quality in science communication, this paper will use the European Researchers\\\' Night event as a case study for exploring the landscape of European science communication in informal learning environments. The QUEST project ultimately seeks to determine the most effective ways to communicate with citizens about science, particularly on the relevant, and sometimes urgent, topics that impact their daily lives. Presenters: Joseph Roche, Laura Bell, and Aaron Jensen

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