Our new factsheets give recommendations for creating contexts that promote quality science communication by researchers and research institutions, journalists and the media sector, museums and on social media.
The COVID-19 crisis has shown the importance of science communication as a tool for managing public health. Quality communication by scientists and experts was crucial in helping citizens understand the importance of social distancing and other measures that helped save lives. On the other hand, when government reports, journalism, talk shows, and public relations news releases from industry and academic institutions failed to communicate the results of scientific studies effectively, fake news and misinformation quickly captured the public’s attention.
These examples show how important it is to incentivize high-quality communication about science and R&I to the general public both for scientists and research institutions, and across different media and professionals.
With this aim in mind, and focusing in particular on the QUEST research strands, i.e. journalism, museums, and social media, we have developed a list of recommendations that can be adopted to create and support a framework that promotes quality science communication.
Our recommendations have been developed by combining desk research with the results of research conducted within the QUEST project, based on codesign activities that engaged representatives from the target groups that might foster the promotion of policy and incentives at different levels (i.e. journalists, museums, scientists, communicators, policy-makers, media industry, social media platforms, governance of research institutions from the public and the private sector, etc.)
Our recommendations investigate:
- the role of policy, at institutional, national and EU level, in increasing quality in science communication,
- what strategies policy-makers can introduce to limit the growing spread of disinformation among citizens in the face of an increasing distrust towards public bodies,
- what specific policies and incentives promoted by funding organizations can affect public engagement with science and technology.
Starting from the challenges and needs for each stakeholder and media, we recommend different policies and incentives to tackle them. Existing good practices in relation to the suggested solutions are also presented.
Furthermore, for each category of policy-makers that we identified as targets of our recommendations, we have grouped different recommendations related to the different strands, to better address the complexity of the science communication landscape across different fields and involving different actors. (These “factsheets” can be downloaded below.)
In some cases, the relevance of recommendations developed are strand/stakeholder specific. In particular, for research institutions and scientists, the need to make science communication and public engagement really embedded in the strategic documents of the research institutions is particularly important. These strategies have to promote a science communication that supports institutional third mission based on responsible research and innovation principles (RRI) instead of on marketing goals.
For the media sector and journalists, policies and tools that promote fact-checking and mining of sound science news are proposed as fundamental for quality science communication. Another interesting strategy to be implemented by governments and by the media themselves that got the support of the stakeholders can be the promotion of science coverage by the media, thus ensuring that science topics are reported sufficiently.
Concerning museums, the specific policies recommended by QUEST focus on the importance of an approach that engages and seeks to include diverse audiences. Establishing a dialogue with the public implies going beyond the educational role traditionally played by museums. As regards social media, we highlighted the importance of strengthening the study and the support of research, particularly in relation to misinformation and polarizing issues. Furthermore, we suggest incentivising the sharing of good practices of science communication through social media.
For more information the full deliverable can be downloaded at the following link: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5070099
(Image by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images)