All author's publications are listed below.
In today's society a variety of challenges need attention because they are considered to affect our well-being. Many of these challenges can be addressed with new innovations, yet they may also introduce new challenges. Communication of these new innovations is vital. This importance is also addressed by the concept of Responsible Research and Innovation. In the present commentary we draw on a dataset of 196 research projects and discuss the two research streams of Science Communication and Responsible Research and Innovation and how they are complements to each other. We conclude with suggestions for practitioners and scientists.
Differences in viewpoints between science and society, like in for example the HPV-vaccination debate, should be considered from a socio-technical system perspective, and not solely from a boundary perspective between the lay public, medical doctors and scientists. Recent developments in the HPV-vaccination case show how the debate concerning uncertainty amongst scientists and the lay audience is mostly focussed on the improvement of understanding of lay people about why vaccination is important. This boundary thinking leads to the idea that once the boundary is crossed, the problem is solved. However, such ‘bug-fixing’ and technocentric boundary thinking is not leading to sustainable resolutions. We view science communication as a key aspect of the socio-technical system of scientific, technological and innovation development, in which the vaccine and its corresponding immunisation program are socially constructed. A process of construction that takes place all the way from the fuzzy front-end of their scientific conception until the marketing back-end. The authority, legitimacy and therefore the license to operate of scientists, engineers and policy makers are discussed, primarily at this boundary, but develops during the whole process of innovation. During upstream processes, professional roles and according behaviour are also defined.
In this commentary we state that the development of science communication strategies should also start upstream, and that the ‘bug-fixes’ of improved listening to (and not by) the lay audience, could be become a more sustainable solution to the HPV-debate if this process of listening by experts considers the socio-technical system of vaccination as a whole. One of the outcomes might be that the dialogue between scientists, policy makers and the lay audience is about the various possible scenarios that deal with inherent scientific and societal uncertainty in which the inevitable uncertainty of science becomes more explicit. It is not known according whether this will lead to more profound interactions, however we would like to explore this possibility a bit more from an uncertain innovation process point of view. This could clear the way for a process of co-inquiry into ideas concerning shared responsibility and accountability. The latter means that the focus in the debate is more balanced and concerns the social network, and is not purely focussed on the betterment ofunderstanding by the lay audience. Moreover, in this way we consider communication and interaction between actors not as a means of crossing any boundaries (since that may be impossible), but as a means to perturb a status quo or equilibrium within a network of actors. This makes apparent boundaries more explicit and discussable. Methods of interaction, e.g. based on concepts like midstream modulation, may lead to another discourse and give way to new dynamics in this social system.
After the first paradigm shift from the deficit model to two-way communication, the field of science communication is in need of a second paradigm shift. This second shift sees communication as an inherently distributed element in the socio-technical system of science and technology development. Science communication is understood both from a systems perspective and its consecutive parts, in order to get a grip on the complex and dynamic reality of science, technology development and innovation in which scientists, industrial and governmental partners and the lay public collaborate. This essay reflects on the under-development of system thinking in science communication and the need to fix this. Legitimation for the second paradigm shift is found in the ‘crisis in social sciences’ that has led to a revival of system theory to balance the deterministic thinking in our grounding discipline. This essay concludes with the idea of a ‘Communication for Innovation-Lab’ as an experimental setting in which whole/part thinking in science communication can be shaped according to this second paradigm shift, forming seed crystals for future developments.