Building a relationship between science journalism and citizen science

June 26, 2023
Marco Boscolo
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Insights from the European project NEWSERA, aimed to incorporate participatory science into science communication. Blueprint for #CitSciComm now available.

Among other things, the ENJOI project has examined science journalism through the lens of engagement. Engagement is an integral part of many participatory science projects, where community building and maintenance are essential for success. The European project NEWSERA aimed precisely to incorporate participatory science into science communication. Its efforts have involved collaborating with citizen science projects, representatives from quadruple-helix stakeholders, and experts in science communication. The aim has been to explore how citizen science could evolve into the new standard for communicating scientific knowledge, fostering science literacy among the general public.

Complementing and benefiting each other

In fact, it is arguable that citizen science and science journalism complement each other, benefiting from their reciprocal relationship. Citizen science projects can gain visibility and public attention by receiving media coverage while also reaping direct advantages such as recruiting new citizen scientists and motivating existing participants. Journalists, on the other hand, play a crucial role in helping citizen scientists highlight the most newsworthy and socially relevant aspects of their projects, shifting the focus beyond abstract scientific matters and towards a potentially wider resonance.

A unique perspective

Moreover, when the media takes an interest in a citizen science project, they often gain access to a treasure trove of original data and stories that are typically harder to come by when covering traditional scientific research. Citizen science offers a unique perspective, providing a dynamic and personal outlook on scientific content. Furthermore, citizen science enables journalists to foster community engagement—an increasingly valuable aspect often lacking in mainstream journalism.

In the three years of the project, the NEWSERA approach has been tested with a series of pilot cases of citizen science projects from Spain, Portugal and Italy. Although the difference in the stage of advancement and in the context where those projects are developed, the experimentations found a series of takeaway messages that can be of relevance for the science journalist and media producers interested in fostering community engagement.

Recommendations from the NEWSERA's Blueprint for #CitSciComm with and for science journalists

Here are the main recommendations coming from the NEWSERA’s Blueprint for #CitSciComm with and for science journalists. As you will see, there is a lot of direct and indirect reference not only to engagement in general but also to several principles and standards that have been an integral part of the ENJOI Manifesto for an Outstanding Open Science Communication since the beginning:

  • Build the relationship between citizen science projects and journalists well in advance and not once the project is completed.
  • Establish a common language between the two groups.
  • Try to maintain the relationship in time.
  • Share the data in an open way: previewing the data is a key step to ideating and designing several stories by selecting the most newsworthy ones or the most suitable to a specific media and audience at a certain moment. 
  • Remember that not all stories fit the same audience.
  • Make an effort to combine a compelling narrative with rigour.
  • Look for opportunities to meet and discuss and learn in informal settings between science journalists and citizen science project representatives.

Read all the details in the Blueprint for #CitSciComm with and for science journalists that you can download from Zenodo or from the NEWSERA website.

Featured image by on Freepik

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