Science communication: theory and models

24/02/2020

As science communication programs grow worldwide, effective evaluation and assessment metrics lag. While there is no consensus on evaluation protocols specifically for science communication training, there is agreement on elements of effective training: listening, empathy, and knowing your audience — core tenets of improvisation. We designed an evaluation protocol, tested over three years, based on validated and newly developed scales for an improvisation-based communication training at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. Initial results suggest that ‘knowing your audience’ should apply to training providers as they design and evaluate their curriculum, and gender may be a key influence on outcomes.

17/02/2020

Science communication is proliferating in the developing world, however, with respect to science centres, as a whole Africa is being left behind. Here 15 participants in a capacity building program are investigated using traditional needs-based and contemporary asset-based development conceptualisations. These development theories parallel deficit and participatory approaches, respectively, within science communication and demonstrate synergies between the fields. Data showed staffing, funding, governments, host institutions, and audiences are prominent needs and assets, networks are a major asset, and identified other influential factors. Analysis suggests a coordinated model involving individuals, host institutions and governments to facilitate growth of African science centres.

10/02/2020

The goal of Science Cafés and Science on Taps is to encourage open discourse between scientists and the public in a casual setting (e.g., a bar) in order to improve the public understanding of, and trust in, science. These events have existed for over two decades, but there is no research studying their efficacy. Data presented here demonstrate that a yearlong Science on Tap series induced little change among the attendees with respect to attitudes, emotions, and knowledge about the nature of science. Ultimately, we found this event may be preaching to the choir rather than changing hearts and minds.

12/11/2019

Storytelling essentials are stories that direct attention, trigger emotions, and prompt understanding. Citizen science has recently promoted the narrative approach of storytelling as a means of engagement of people of all ages and backgrounds in scientific research processes. We seek understanding about the typology of storytelling in citizen science projects and explore to what extent the tool of storytelling can be conceptualized in the approach of citizen science. In a first step, we investigated the use and integration of storytelling in citizen science projects in the three European German-speaking countries. We conducted a low threshold content analysis of 209 projects listed on the German-speaking online platforms for citizen science projects “Bürger schaffen Wissen”, “Österreich forscht”, and “Schweiz forscht”. Two expert workshops with citizen science practitioners were held to validate and discuss the identified role of stories in the practice of citizen science. Our analysis revealed three major categories mirroring how stories are being integrated and applied in citizen science. The first category refers to projects, in which stories are the core research objective. The second category is characterized by the application of stories in different phases of the research project. The third category encompasses stories as agents being part of the communication and organization of the project. We illustrate the practical application of these categories by three representative case studies. By combining the functionality of the categories and abstracting the linkages between storytelling and citizen science, we derived a generalized model accounting for those linkages. In conclusion, we suggest that storytelling should be a prerequisite to enhance the competencies of the actors involved and to exchange knowledge at the interfaces of science and policy as well as science and society.

14/10/2019

The last three decades have seen extensive reflection concerning how science communication should be modelled and understood. In this essay we propose the value of a cultural approach to science communication — one that frames it primarily as a process of meaning-making. We outline the conceptual basis for this view of culture, drawing on cultural theory to suggest that it is valuable to see science communication as one aspect of (popular) culture, as storytelling or narrative, as ritual, and as collective meaning-making. We then explore four possible ways that a cultural approach might proceed: by mobilising ideas about experience; by framing science communication through identity work; by focusing on fiction; and by paying attention to emotion. We therefore present a view of science communication as always entangled within, and itself shaping, cultural stories and meanings. We close by suggesting that one benefit of this approach is to move beyond debates concerning ‘deficit or dialogue’ as the key frame for public communication of science.

14/10/2019

This research develops a conceptual framework for telling visual stories about science using short-format videos, termed SciCommercial videos, that draw upon marketing communication. The framework is illustrated by an exemplar, the Good Whale Watching video, which is explained using a visual rhetoric keyframe analysis. Finally, the effectiveness of the video is evaluated as a science communication tool using an empirical online survey with 1698 respondents. The results highlight the benefits of using video for storytelling about science by using our framework formula, modified from marketing practices, to produce videos that are Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Science Storytelling (SUCCESS).

30/09/2019

As science communication develops as a field of both practice and research, it needs to address issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion across a wide range, including race, power, class, gender. Doing so will require deeper understanding of conceptual work and practical activities that address those issues. This brief comment introduces a series of commentaries that provide one approach: feminist approaches to science communication.

05/08/2019

At a time when science is perceived to be under attack and our planet is facing severe challenges, the role of science journalism in taking on these challenges was a key theme of the 11th World Conference of Science Journalists. But, while policymakers and science leaders are urging journalists to help restore public trust in science, science journalists are concerned about the future viability of their profession in the face of faltering business models in mainstream media.

01/07/2019

Astronomy has been an inherently visual area of science for millenia, yet a majority of its significant discoveries take place in wavelengths beyond human vision. There are many people, including those with low or no vision, who cannot participate fully in such discoveries if visual media is the primary communication mechanism. Numerous efforts have worked to address equity of accessibility to such knowledge sharing, such as through the creation of three-dimensional (3D) printed data sets. This paper describes progress made through technological and programmatic developments in tactile 3D models using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to improve access to data.

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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