Our toolkits have been created to help scientists, journalists, museum facilitators and social media managers with their science communication activities. They include new guides, checklists, presentations and other tools.
The QUEST toolkits were developed to fill in a gap that we identified in the European science communication landscape: our analysis showed that science communicators would benefit from additional resources that support the development of their skill sets.
Following our methodological strategy, we engaged scientists, journalists, museum facilitators and social media content managers in a co-design process. Through interviews, workshops, focus groups and surveys, and building on our quality indicators for science communication, science communication professionals across Europe helped us identify their specific challenges and opportunities for skills development.
We are now excited to share the results of this work through the handbooks, checklists, guides and other materials included in the four toolkits. Read more about the various resources below.
Explore the QUEST toolkits here!
Toolkit for scientists
The toolkit for scientists was developed to help scientists overcome the challenges they face when communicating their research and science in general to the wider public. In particular, QUEST engaged both scientists and professional trainers in science communication to develop tips that help scientists communicate their research effectively.
A series of focus groups were organised with scientists, working on divisive scientific topics, i.e. climate change, vaccines and artificial intelligence. During these sessions, challenges scientists face when communicating to the public, also through news media and social media, were explored as well as their strategies to overcome them.
In parallel, interviews with trainers allowed us to explore, gather and compare strategies for quality and effective science communication proposed by professionals. On the basis of this work, a checklist to support scientists in communication with the public was developed and tested with scientists in workshops. How to be clear, engaging and promote dialogue are some of the key aspects considered.
This checklist has been published in two different formats, a flyer and a poster. Our hope is that scientists keep these documents on their desk or hung on the wall of their office and refer to them whenever they need to prepare for communicating with the general public.
Moreover, a powerpoint presentation has been developed both as a basis for trainers in science communication activities and as a self-learning resource for scientists to further support the building of their communication capacities.
The Key Performance Indicators (see QUEST D2.1 ), our podcast episodes on science communication in relation to climate change, artificial intelligence, vaccines, Covid-19 and social media, and the social media good practice flyer and poster (see D3.3) complete the QUEST toolkit for scientists.
Toolkit for journalists
The toolkit for journalists was devised to help journalists report on complex scientific issues in a way the public can understand and trust. This element of QUEST’s output also recognises that the task of scrutinising research findings requires journalists reporting on science topics to develop a richer skillset and an informed and critical mindset.
A series of guided workshops with working journalists, media professionals and science communicators identified and explored the pressures science reporters often face in fast-paced media environments – and the tools and expertise necessary to help them interpret scientific papers and to interrogate and convey statistics, data and scientific information.
At the same time, collaboration and consultation with media professionals, organisations and science journalism trainers served to fine-tune the toolkit focus and content. These included WAN-IFRA and the Department of Journalism at City, University of London (QUEST partners), BBC Science (a QUEST stakeholder), Science Media Centres in the UK and Germany, and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).
The 5-part Science Explainers for Journalists is available in an accessible format with at-a-glance definitions and descriptions – users are encouraged to download or print it as necessary.
A key feature of the journalists’ toolkit is a guide to JECT.AI, the innovative digital research tool developed as a QUEST initiative to enhance research activities, find new story angles, and introduce a wider variety of viewpoints to reporting of science journalism. We’ll release a video describing JECT.AI’s features soon, and for now you can read more about the tool in our previous blog post and on JECT.AI’s website.
A powerpoint presentation is intended for use on science journalism programmes, trainee journalism schemes, and as an aide-memoire to professional development initiatives within media organisations.
Finally, the Journalists’ Toolkit also offers QUEST’s Quality Indicators, and a podcast series featuring contributions from journalists and scientists on how best to communicate some of the most pressing issues facing humanity – the climate crisis, artificial intelligence, vaccines and COVID-19. The podcast series features contributions from female scientists and specialist journalists as workshop participants had suggested the views of this group are under-represented and under-exposed.
Toolkit for museums and galleries
Resources were created for museums and galleries to help address critical challenges facing cultural environments as they seek to engage disparate and diverse audiences with science and art (Mannino et al., 2021).
These challenges stem from the uncertainty caused by the global pandemic and addressing the issues of inclusivity facing museums is a matter of social justice. Now, more than ever, is the time to tackle obstacles of accessibility (Brown et al., 2020).
The toolkit for museums and galleries gives recommendations on how to promote diversity, equality and inclusion in the cultural space and to establish environments that are supportive and rooted in consideration and care.
As well as the toolkit the QUEST Academic Writing Handbook for Museum Communicators provides a grassroots approach to empowering museum professionals. It was designed and developed by a writing group made up of science communicators working in the museum sector.
The handbook encourages museum professionals to take ownership of the research in their field by getting involved in academic writing to make their work more credible and robust as well as making peer-reviewed publications more open and accessible.
Toolkit for social media
Based on our research about science communication on social media in Europe, we created materials aiming to help social media managers, scientists and journalists engage with their public in such crucial, even if virtual, space.
All our work was co-designed with experts and science communication practitioners, so that the results fit the personal experience of science communicators. The same 12 pillars of quality identified for science communication in general apply also on social media, but with some slight differences mostly related to the peculiarities of these platforms: brevity, for example, is a must on Twitter, even if it can now be bypassed by the use of threads; sticking to scientific rigour can be challenging when a comment is requested in real time, but it should never be abandoned.
Our results come from an experiment involving about 1,000 Facebook and Twitter accounts communicating about science in Europe. Our suggestions for increasing engagement are therefore science-based and tested in the field. They are summarized in the 3Ts’ rule: always consider the Type of post (text, picture, video, external link), its Text (length, inclusion of hashtags or mentions) and Time (hour of the day and day of the week). Science communication on social media must be tuned to reach one’s target audience according to different topics by leveraging these 3 Ts.
Some of our tools, such as the poster and the leaflet, can be kept at hand, as they provide a checklist and may remind practitioners of these easy tips to sustain the quality and effectiveness of science communication when posting or tweeting.
A podcast on why and how to use social media for science communication is mainly targeted to scientists that wish to start or improve this activity with the help of experts. In order to support trainers in their courses of science communication, we also prepared a powerpoint presentation summarizing main issues and suggestions from our research.
Explore the QUEST toolkits here!
Are you using the QUEST toolkits in your work? Do you have comments about them? We want to hear from you!
Brown, A., Roche, J., & Hurley, M. (2020). Engaging migrant and refugee communities in non-formal science learning spaces. JCOM: Journal of Science Communication, 19(4), R01. DOI: https://doi.org/10.22323/2.19040601
Mannino, I., Bell, L., Costa, E., Di Rosa, M., Fornetti, A., Franks, S., Iasillo, C., Maiden, N., Olesk, A., Pasotti, J., Renser, B., Roche, J., Schofield, B., Villa, R., & Zollo, F. (2021). Supporting quality in science communication: insights from the QUEST project. JCOM: Journal of Science Communication (in press).