A decade ago, the European Commission warned: “ Our society is faced with challenge of finding its proper place in a world shaken by economic and political turbulence … science, technology and innovation are indispensible to meet this challenge. However, there are indications that [their] immense potential is out of step with ordinary citizens.” (Science and Society Action Plan, 2001).
In response, the Commission proposed 38 actions, involving researchers, media professionals and the Commission itself that were vital if the public were have confidence in and support their scientists in providing solutions to the problems facing the European Union. Many of these actions centred on better, more honest and more engaging communication between researchers, journalists, broadcasters, policy-makers and European citizens.
But a key question was how to empower Europe’s researchers to communicate better with the audiences identified by the Commission as crucial to ensuring science-in-society relations fit for the new millennium. After all, whilst researchers are well educated in their scientific disciplines, there is little in their training that prepares them to be involved in dialogue around the more controversial aspects of their work and its consequences, or even to talk to busy media professionals and policy-makers with deadlines to meet and decisions to be reached.
ESConet, the European Network of Science Communication Trainers, set out to address this problem. ESConet has a team of 24 trainers from 12 countries across Europe, including many media professionals and leading science communication academics. ESConet was and is ideally set up to deal with the complex needs of researchers across a wide variety of natural, applied and social science disciplines from countries covering the entire European Union.
Under Framework 6, we developed a set of modules that could be put together flexibly to create science communication training workshops to fit the time available and the particular needs of the researchers to be trained. Under Framework 7, we have delivered two series of three-day workshops in both “basic” science communication practices and advanced, deliberative communication and engagement around key and controversial issues.
The results of the Framework 7 programme have been “mass” science communication training on a scale never achieved before:
• A total of 20 workshops delivered under contract to the European Commission – 10 in 2009 and 10 in 2010;
• A total of 367 training places delivered – 168 in 2009, 199 in 2010;
• 231 researchers from 34 countries, trained, including 25 EU countries, 2 candidate
countries, 5 other European countries and 2 non-European countries.
The immediate feedback from these workshops has been overwhelmingly positive. More in depth evaluation shows that training on the workshops results in increased confidence and science communication activity levels.
Read the ESConet_Trainers_Final_Report