815   Roundtable discussion

Communicating their own research: What do we need to know about the role of scientists and researchers in science communication?

In this round table session, we take a cross-disciplinary look at scientists who engage in the communication of (their own) science and research. In the last years, scientists have been more actively involved in science communication, as scientific research itself is becoming more and more transparent, science communication does increasingly take place online, and outreach activities at universities are relying on scientists to communicate their science. 

This increasing involvement of scientists in science communication raises interesting questions for science communication researchers. For example, the speakers in this round table session have investigated which motives researchers hold to engage in science communication, which different communication objectives may shape the science communication by scientists, how communication objectives are adapted to the event and an anticipated public, how science communication might interact with interdisciplinary communication within large collaborative research groups, and how research on the perspectives of scientists engaged in science communication can inform science communication training. To answer these questions, different theoretical approaches were used, e.g. the theory of planned behavior (Ajzen, 1991), theories related to the field of expert-lay communication (e.g. Clark, 1996), or models of educational reconstruction (e.g. Duit et al., 2012). 

This roundtable discussion aims to connect cross-disciplinary and international ideas and findings, discussing which research questions need to be addressed in order to investigate the perspectives of scientists as science communicators. We also want to connect overarching theoretical approaches to address these research questions, reflecting on how different disciplinary perspectives can be useful to this field of research, including social science and communication science (Peters), psychology (Hendriks), and science education (Barel-Ben David, Enzingmüller).

Author: Friederike Hendriks
University of Münster, Germany

One condition for success of science communication is interdisciplinarity. Firstly, this means the successful communication of highly specialized experts. In a large DFG-funded collaborative research center (CRC), we have investigated, whether institutional science communication also raises the opportunity for inner-scientific communication within the CRC. We concluded that there is indeed a possibility for interdisciplinary communication that institutional science communication can foster. Secondly, interdisciplinarity could also be assumed for the communication between communication experts (e.g. science communicators, science journalists) and scientists. I believe that it is worthwhile to discuss how collaborations between scientists and communication experts can be fostered within institutions, and what conditions for success need to be met. I will discuss how interdisciplinarity in science communication could be investigated further, and how psychological theories and methods could contribute to this research.

Speaker: Yael Barel-Ben David
Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, Israel

Yael Barel-Ben David has worked with early career scientists to write popular science articles, and she investigates how such science communication training shapes scientists' motivations, skills, attitudes and identity. At the same time she is interested in how members of the general public perceive and interact with articles authored by scientists. To find out if scientists can somewhat fill the void of the diminishing number of science journalists, she has looked at audience interactions with 150 online articles written by early career scientists, and how these interactions compare with interactions with articles written by science reporters.

Speaker: Hans Peter Peters
FZ Jülich & Free University Berlin, Germany

Cross-cultural surveys of scientists have led to interesting findings about similarities and differences with respect to the priority of public communication for scientists, their practical involvement in it, and the concepts and roles they assume to be adequate for public communication. Yet, most of these surveys (including my own) are methodologically problematic in several respects: Questionnaires are often based on concepts that emerged in the Anglo-Saxon world and view science communication through the lens of these concepts without critically reflecting whether these concepts are adequate globally. Furthermore, they tend to ask questions about science communication in general and to not differentiate between communication situations (e.g., popularization vs. problem-oriented expertise) that are likely to shape scientists' goals and approaches as well as expectations of audiences. Finally, the question formats used are often prone to cultural bias. In my panel statement I will discuss these problems and sketch possible solutions.

Speaker: Carolin Enzigmüller
IPN Kiel, Germany

While the demand for knowledge transfer and science outreach is continuously growing, university-led outreach in Germany often rather focuses on surface visibility than on empirical effects and is rarely implemented in sustainable institutional structures. The Kiel Science Outreach Campus (KiSOC) was initiated to explore possible solutions. It aims to (a) designing evidence-based science outreach based on innovative and sustainable interfaces between the fields of science, science education and outreach practice and (b) supporting conceptual and institutional development of science outreach training, especially for junior researchers as part of their research qualification. In my panel statement, I will present exemplary work of the KiSOC and sketch our future ideas with the goal to get into a constructive discussion.

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