All author's publications are listed below.
The cultural phenomenon of ‘science festivals’ is ever expanding throughout the world, as universities, city and regional governments, and science engagement professionals alike embrace the concept of a focused ‘celebration’ of science. In the past however science festivals have been criticized for neglecting underrepresented audiences. This special issue explores the extent to which current science festivals have managed to engage with diverse publics, and identifies the key challenges facing the future of science festivals, most notably the need for deeper research into the impacts of science festivals.
Around the world there are widespread efforts to ensure that policy decisions are based upon a sound evidence base, and in particular to facilitate closer integration between the research and policy communities. This commentary provides an overview of the current situation in different parts of the world relating to the opportunities that exist for policy makers to assimilate scientific findings, as well as the existing barriers perceived by both the policy and research communities. Mutual trust and respect between the relevant parties emerge as crucial factors in successful collaboration. Skilled mediators are also considered essential to ensuring effective communication; this may be via third parties such as NGOs, or news services and online portals to convey, ‘translate’ and place in a policy context the scientific findings. Mechanisms for improving researchers’ communication skills as well as increasing their awareness of the need to communicate proactively with the policy community are also considered in order to inform future practice in this area.
The SCOOP project aimed to maximise the potential for the transfer of research findings into policy using European-funded socio-economic sciences and humanities research. The project incorporated a News Alert Service to communicate policy-relevant elements of research findings to interested stakeholders. It also sought to further develop the skills of researchers to effectively communicate research outcomes to policy makers through a programme of Masterclasses. A series of evaluation surveys were held to both tailor the project outputs to the target audiences, and to measure the impact of project actions on the interactions between SSH researchers and policy makers. Both SCOOP elements were well received, with evidence of improved communication, utilisation of SSH research by policy makers, and greater awareness and proactivity on the part of the researchers. More generally, interviews and questionnaire findings demonstrated that mediators play a crucial role: various intermediaries and interpreters work between policy makers and researchers to put in context the research outcomes and convey information through dedicated channels and formalised processes as well as informal, fluid processes.
Effective training in key communications skills is critical for successful public engagement. However, what are the secrets to designing and delivering an effectual training course? This paper outlines key findings from a research study into communication training programmes for public engagement with STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The research focused on training in direct communication methods, (as separate from media training) and encompassed both trainers and trainees, the latter group spanning across both scientists and explainers. The findings indicated that training courses are effective at increasing involvement in science communication events and trainees feel more confident and able to engage due to training. An interactive style was found to be a key element of training courses. Demonstrations of good practice followed by own performance with feedback were also important, preferably involving a ‘real’ audience. A list of guidelines on best practice has been developed which offers practical advice.
The MSc in Science Communication offered by the University of the West of England is taught in short three day blocks, designed specifically to cater for both full and part time students wishing to combine work and study effectively. Started in 2004, the programme emphasises the development of practical skills as well as developing a wider understanding of the key issues facing science communicators today. With this in mind, workshops explore theory and practice, considering the potential of a range of creative, targeted and innovative opportunities to enable greater community participation in scientific issues.