ENJOI 1st Engagement Workshop, Italy

June 16, 2022
Giulia Bonelli
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The first ENJOI Engagement Workshop was held in Bologna, Italy, in March 2022. Co-creating the standards, principles and indicators in science communication and journalism

Going back to face-to-face events was thrilling after hundreds of calls, virtual meetings, e-conferences, and workshops via Zoom. It was March 11th, 2022, one of the first sunny days of the year in Italy. And we had the perfect setting: Salus Space, a multifunctional centre in Bologna combining a housing project, arts and crafts labs, a theatre, a study centre, an emporium, a weekly farmers' market, a restaurant, and a whole community revolving around all this.

Here, we hosted the first ENJOI Engagement Workshop (EW). After the pilot workshop in Trieste in November 2021, this was the kick-off event of our co-creating European workshops. Same format, different languages and participants, four countries: Italy, Belgium, Spain and Portugal.

Our goal? Engage people from various backgrounds to discuss standards, principles and indicators for good science communication and journalism. The Covid-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, and many more global challenges highlight the urgency of improving science communication and journalism in a systematic way. Within ENJOI, we propose to do that by defining a new set of Standards, Principles and Indicators. We call them SPIs, and here’s our preliminary list - deriving from in-depth research carried out by the Catalan Association of Science Communication (ACCC), a professional network bringing together scientific communicators, journalists, researchers, facilitators and editors in Catalonia, Spain.

Then, we wanted to move from theory to practice: we all agree that science communication and journalism should be rigorous, just to mention a recurring principle in the literature. But how should this principle be declined? What are the possible standards deriving from it? And can rigour be measured with qualitative or quantitative indicators?

These were some of the many questions we wanted to discuss during the ENJOI Engagement Workshops. To test the first SPIs and find new ones, together with those who might use them in everyday work.


The ENJOI EW methodology

Stickydot, a Brussels collective with expertise in multi-stakeholder engagement in research and innovation, designed the ENJOI Engagement Workshop methodology. While Science for Change, a Barcelona-based SME working to address socio-environmental challenges through citizen science and participatory approaches, was in charge of the EW implementation.

The Engagement Workshops were based on the co-design methodology. The four events in Italy, Belgium, Spain and Portugal followed a “cascade” approach: each event “fed” the following one so that the overall methodology was improved step by step.

The Engagement Workshop in Italy was organised by formicablu, an Italian science communication agency based in Bologna and ENJOI coordinator.


The ENJOI EW in Italy: have a look

Here’s a taste of the Italian Engagement Workshop atmosphere, goals, activities, and outcomes. Watch the video!

The ENJOI EW in Italy: participants

Nineteen people attended the Italian Engagement Workshop. They were journalists, science communicators, researchers, science museum experts, teachers, clinicians, activists, actors, social media experts, editors, and designers. It was an amazing group, with participants willing to listen to each other and give their perspectives on the complex world of science communication and journalism.


Italian EW Module 1: Co-creating Principles

We defined principles in science communication and journalism as fundamental truths, serving as the common ground to build theories about good science communication.

The first module of the Engagement Workshop was the co-creation of a shared list of principles.

Ethics, reliability, storytelling, sources, target, engagement, rigour, newsworthiness, perspective, context, relevance, coherence, clarity, curiosity, precision, respect, emotions, transparency, common good. These are some of the principles emerging from the group discussion.

We also had some more controversial proposals, such as education, neutrality, and impact: an excellent trigger to enliven the debate.


Italian EW Module 2: Identifying Standards

We proposed to consider standards as reference models to be used as general rules to measure quantity, extent, value, or quality in science communication.

Identifying standards was the most challenging part of the Italian EW. The very definition of “standard” was questioned several times, which proved helpful: do we even need standards? Why don’t we call them “models” instead? These and other questions were food for thought during the discussion. But then many possible standards were identified - here are some examples:

Standards from the principle “Source”:

  • Use reliable, trustworthy, verified sources
  • Include different perspectives
  • Avoid false balance
  • When possible, make the sources available to the public
  • Include sources that are “cognitively close” to your audience
  • Assure the quality and completeness of the sources

Standards from the principle “Target”:

  • Define who you are talking to
  • Analyse your targets
  • Choose the right language for the right audience

Standards from the principle “Engagement”:

  • Try to build a community around your work
  • Collect inputs from your audience
  • Develop a call to actions
  • Listen to your readers, do not try to persuade them

Standards from the principles “Relevance”/”Newsworthiness”:

  • Ask yourself: “Is it really relevant what I am adding to the communication arena?”
  • Always think about the newsworthiness

Standards from the principle “Clarity”:

  • Be clear, but avoid oversimplifications
  • Be simple, not simplistic
  • Use a clear language
  • Communicate data in a clear way

Standards from the principle “Accuracy”:

  • Be precise
  • Be exhaustive, not “pachydermic”

Standards from the principle “Rigour”:

  • Fact-checking
  • Always have articles reread before publication

Standards from the principle “Concreteness”:

  • Make a communication that is concrete, close to the everyday life and the practical world of the listener
  • Look for cognitive proximity with your audience (e.g. talking about the climate crisis using as an example polar bears might feel distant; it would be better to use closer examples)

Standards from the principle “Context”:

  • Define the context of your work
  • Include the point of view of different stakeholders
  • Explain the causes of a phenomenon, but also try to talk about its consequences

Standards from the principle “Storytelling

  • Tell representative stories
  • Use (wisely) emotions to connect with your audience
  • Use infographics

Standards from the principle “Ethics”:

  • Avoid advocacy
  • Report the idea of “scientific consensus”, if there is one
  • Be accountable

Standards from the principle “Impact”:

  • Think about the valuable impact your work can have
  • Follow-up on your work (circular approach)

Italian EW Module 3: Defining Indicators

And now, let’s measure all this! We defined indicators as specific, observable and measurable characteristics that can be used to achieve a particular outcome in science communication and journalism.

The group brainstorming led to several possible indicators to assess the quality of science communication and journalism. Here are some:

  • Target(s): demographics, profiles, etc.
  • Questionnaires
  • Qualitative interviews with selected readers
  • Number of readers (copies sold)
  • Number of views
  • On social media: number of followers, likes, shares, comments, etc.
  • Follow these numbers over time (not just one specific moment)
  • Subscribers (free + paywall)
  • Fidelity level
  • Content analysis
  • Permanence (e.g. for how long do users watch a video?)
  • How often was our article/product cited/reported on other platforms?
  • How many and which sources were used?
  • What do our “competitors” say about our work?
  • Peer review and fact-checking in the production process
  • Numbers of revisions
  • How many times the same experts were interviewed, and on which topics?
  • Level of interdisciplinary and diversity of fields/topics over time
  • Coherence with the methodology used (which should be made explicit)
  • Pertinence of images used
  • Number of typos (“If I write badly, I think badly”)
  • Non-commercial partnerships
  • Qualitative and quantitative reports (to measure impact)
  • Community responsiveness

Italian EW take-home message

We need to discuss, and discuss, and discuss. While co-creating principles, looking for standards and defining indicators, the fil rouge was the need to create more opportunities to discuss and compare different perspectives. We all felt it was time to bring science journalism and communication out of its niche. And a serious, respectful and interdisciplinary debate is the starting point.


Pictures by Pasquale Greco, formicablu

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