Scientists around the world are confronted with threats to public trust in science on issues ranging from public health measures to climate change, and unfortunately there is often a perceived gap between science and society.
Members of the Global Young Academy (GYA) believe that young scientists have a particular responsibility to contribute to closing this gap, and that these scientists have specific abilities and capacities that allow them to reach out to vital parts of society. However, as scientists dedicated to their fields, they often lack the tools, the conceptual framework, and the encouragement to consider such questions and engage in communication activities.
“[With the COVID-19 pandemic], almost overnight, science became the lifeline of a world in despair. It was no longer this ‘exclusive’ thing that was reserved for people in lab coats who use fancy instruments.”
The “SCISO” project provides insights not only about the practical tools of science communication, but also about the deeper roots of the problems, e.g., perspectives on scientific integrity or incentives in science. The target audience is early career researchers around the world who want to contribute to a trustworthy and trustful relationship between science and society.
“This is something you should keep in mind when communicating with your audience. How would you like to be treated in a situation where you are the lay person?”
For this project, the GYA has paired up with the German National Institute for Science Communication (NaWik), a non-profit organization that offers training for scientists, with funding provided by the VW Foundation. Over the course of two years, they have developed content, recruited a passionate science communicator as presenter, and produced the videos clips.
“You are a member of society, so the future problem your research might cause would affect you too. So don’t be afraid of asking the hard questions about risks and values.”
Building on research in science ethics, sociology of science and science communication, the clips contain both theoretical content and practical, hands-on tips for getting started in science communication. The films cover topics such as how to interact with lay people, taking responsibility for one’s research, or opening up the “black box” of science.
The clips will also present “best practices” of select researchers regarding various forms of outreach and communication, for example in policy advice. The GYA wants to encourage young scientists to position themselves in public debates and enable them to make active contributions to the solutions of societal problems.
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Header photo by Pavan Trikutam on Unsplash.