Engaging for innovating and improving science communication
Take-home messages and good intentions from the European Association for Science Engagement (EUSEA) conference
Engagement plays a crucial role for achieving an effective communication of science, and indeed several projects are now considering engagement as a tool for innovation to improve the quality of information. This was discussed during the conference of the European Association for Science Engagement (EUSEA), which took place on May 3rd and 4th, 2023, in Bolzano. EUSEA is more than just a conference: it is a network that has always focused on how engagement can aid science communication on various levels, from teaching in schools to dissemination in the social media, from the way it is discussed in newspapers to studying strategies for communicating complex issues such as the climate crisis. As part of the project, a platform called the European Science Engagement Platform has also been developed. This platform collects formats, toolkits, and resources useful for promoting engagement and stimulating dialogue on how engagement can enhance science communication.
The Many Faces of Engagement
Different organizations are reflecting on the concept of engagement and on its importance in scientific communication, tailoring it according to the target audience and the communication medium used. For example, the ENJOI project sees engagement as a key innovation for journalism, while the Fedora project considers the importance of engagement to improve the quality of science education in high schools. Moreover, engagement becomes crucial when dealing with complex topics such as climate change, where different target audiences can be involved at multiple levels, assuming unique and fundamental roles. A practical example of this aspect was presented during the conference in the form of a serious game on climate justice: the SciCulture CourseKit. This game explores the role that different societal figures can play in contributing to a fair and sustainable future.
Assessing the Impact and Quality of Science Communication
The monitoring phase is a crucial step in evaluating the effectiveness of communication practices. To do so, specific and objective indicators and measurement methods are needed, which can be applied in a targeted manner to the activities carried out. In addition to the EUSEA consortium platform mentioned above, several projects are considering and exploring indicators of good science communication. Within the context of participation in communication (and hence engagement), the impactunit.de project was presented during the conference. It is a practical tool specifically tailored to scientific communication in Germany, aimed at creating surveys and monitoring questionnaires to assess the quality and effectiveness of science communication, as well as the engagement it has generated. Through the platform, it is possible to interactively create a survey questionnaire suitable for any project. The impactunit.de team is also conducting research to understand, through targeted questionnaires, how to improve the perception of science and its processes, and increase the effectiveness of the message being communicated by increasing audience engagement.
Furthermore, the main objective of the ENJOI project is to identify standards, principles, and indicators of good quality in science communication.
Moreover, within the project, an Observatory has been created as a space where communicators, journalists, and disseminators of scientific messages can find networking opportunities, information articles on communication and journalism, and practical tools to enhance the effectiveness of their scientific communication.
Joining Forces: The COALESCE Project
Lastly, the newly launched COALESCE project (Coordinated Opportunities for Advanced Leadership and Engagement in Science Communication in Europe) aims to bring together various communication networks and organizations to create a European reference centre of expertise. The connection between these existing networks in COALESCE will facilitate the exchange of best practices among organizations that already exist in the field, fully leveraging the knowledge and expertise acquired by each of them. This project will focus on the co-creation and co-design building of cooperative relationships with multiple stakeholders, including scientific and journalist networks and university alliances, to ensure the Centre’s measurable and sustainable long term impact.
The Observatory of the ENJOI project will be the first to be integrated into the new centre, but it will only be the beginning of a great effort to unite and enhance science communication, with engagement as one of its key success factors.