Science and policy-making

08/08/2022

The Future of SciComm 2.0 conference was a one-day event in Brussels on April 26th 2022. Focusing on the future of European science communication, sixty participants from twelve countries with different expertise discussed the current challenges and possible solutions for the field. Key themes centred around disinformation, communicating global challenges, evidence-based practices and institutional structures woven through the plenary opening, afternoon workshops and the closing public panel discussion. The conclusion is a need for an European science communication ecosystem that is transdisciplinary, connected and cooperative in practice, weaving between policy, research and industry. Finally, citizen science and open science could be included as scholarly praxes to facilitate societal interconnectivity.

10/06/2022

The workforces of the Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) industries suffer from skills gaps and lack diversity. Science engagement activities often try to solve these problems through targeting audiences under-represented in the STEM workforces. There is limited data, however, to suggest that these engagement efforts are successful in translating into more diverse workforces. We draw upon Unicef’s ‘Sport for Development’ model and propose a new conceptual framework: ‘Science Engagement for Good’. This frames science engagement activities around the benefits to individuals, families and communities, rather than the benefits to STEM industries, the economy or society at large.

28/03/2022

This essay approaches the question: ‘What does participatory science communication for transformation mean in Colombia?’ The answer comes from an examination of the public policy instruments that have promoted participatory scientific communication through the concept of social appropriation of science, technology, and innovation (STI). In the gaze of these public policy instruments, it is evident how the social appropriation of STI has been intended as a means of transformation.

15/11/2021

“Follow the science” became the mantra for responding to COVID-19 pandemic. However, for the public this also meant “follow the scientists”, and this led to uneasiness as some viewed scientists as not credible. We investigate how beliefs about the way scientists develop their findings affect pandemic-related views. Our analysis shows that beliefs about scientists' objectivity predict views regrading coronavirus-related risks, behavioral changes, and policy priorities. While political party identity also predicts views about COVID-19-related concerns, these vary by political leaders whose approaches embraced versus dismissed science-based strategies, highlighting the importance of perceptions of scientists in shaping pandemic-related attitudes and beliefs.

29/09/2021

The promise of CRISPR-Cas9 (CRISPR) genomic editing applied to agriculture is promoted widely by scientists. We utilized textual analysis methods to compare perceptions of this innovation held by various stakeholder groups — scientists, policymakers, farmers, and the general public. Results reveal distinctions in the semantic structure and concepts emphasized across groups. Scientists and policymakers exhibited a high level of technical sophistication while emphasizing the potential societal benefits, while farmers and the general public focused on perceived personal benefits and familiarity with the issue. These results will aid development of message strategies bridging the gap between the scientific community and key publics.

30/09/2020

The nationwide shortage of PPE for health care workers has been well documented. Reporting on this issue has been complicated by hospitals' imposition of gag orders on physicians and health care workers. There are harms that result from imposing these gag orders that go beyond the obvious harms to public and employee health and safety. Using Hirschman's ‘Exit, Voice, and Loyalty’ (1970) as a framework demonstrates that these orders represent a dangerous concentration of power in employer hands — health care workers are reduced to functionaries. Hirschman's argument, in part, is that organisations should seek to balance the availability of exit, voice, and loyalty for employees. Restricting employee options in morally untenable situations to exit only leads to direct and indirect harms. These gag orders are a pernicious practice, and bring with them long-term negative implications for employee morale, employee effectiveness, and public service.

30/09/2020

A global crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic that started in early 2020 poses significant challenges for how research is conducted and communicated. We present four case studies from the perspective of an interdisciplinary research institution that switched to “corona-mode” during the first two months of the crisis, focussing all its capacities on COVID-19-related issues, communicating to the public directly and via media, as well as actively advising the national government. The case studies highlight the challenges posed by the increased time pressure, high demand for transparency, and communication of complexity and uncertainty. The article gives insights into how these challenges were addressed in our research institution and how science communication in general can be managed during a crisis.

29/07/2019

Keyes [2004, p. 15] says: “In the post-truth era we don't just have truth or lies but a third category of ambiguous statements that are not exactly the truth but fall short of a lie”. In this paper about Hector's and Maui dolphin management in New Zealand, we argue that some scientific knowledge about these species presented and disseminated in ways that equate to this third category and as such may be classed as ‘post-truth type communication’. This generates citizen mistrust in science, scientists and government agencies and inflames conflict among informed stakeholders. We argue trust may be rebuilt by a combination of deliberative approaches to environmental governance, transparency about uncertainties, information gaps and divergent scientific opinions, and reformulation of normal scientific approaches and assumptions to those advocated by post-normal science.

14/06/2019

Today, science and politics are in a complex status of reciprocal dependency. Politics is dependent on scientific expertise in order to adequately address highly complex social problems, and science is fundamentally dependent on public funding and on political regulation. Taken together, the diverse interactions, interrelations and interdependencies of science and politics create a heterogenous and complex patchwork — namely, the science-policy interface. The societal relevance for phenomena such as scientific policy advice, science governance or (politically fostered) science communication have been amplified by the developments of digitalisation and now call for new approaches to clarify the ambiguous relationships within the science-policy interface. This special issue aims to provide a platform for researchers to address communication at the intersection of science and politics from different angles. The research presented in the special issue, thus, aims to reduce the contingency of science-policy communication in its various dimensions and looks to spur further investigations into the science-policy interface.

14/06/2019

We explore and discuss the diverse motives that drive science communication, pointing out that political motives are the major driving force behind most science communication programmes including so-called public engagement with science with the result that educational and promotional objectives are blurred and science communication activities are rarely evaluated meaningfully. Since this conflation of motives of science communication and the gap between political rhetoric and science communication practice could threaten the credibility of science, we argue for the restoration of a crucial distinction between two types of science communication: educational/dialogic vs promotional/persuasive.

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