Science Communication II

Building on the concepts and skills learned in Science Communication I, this workshop helps scientists develop more confidence and insight into communication with different audiences.  We also look at two-way communications, including listening and dialogue skills.


Communicating to policy makers

This module introduces trainees to some of the concerns of policy-makers in relation to science, technology and medicine. The module is aimed particularly at presenting to Members of the European Parliament or to European funders such as the Commission, the European Space Agency, the European Science Foundation etc. It would be useful for this module if trainees were familiar with the European Parliament and its committees, and the policy background of the European Commission’s Science and Society Action Plan. This module provides some initial understanding of the requirements of policy-makers for information about science, technology and medicine. It outlines some of the issues that are involved in the communication of science, technology and medicine to policy-makers who are not experts in the area. It commences with a brief introduction to the policy makers and the possible motivations for them to want to know about science, technology and medicine. Trainees then carry practical exercises, involving presenting a short written report on some aspect of science and technology that has key policy implications, or in proposing a project to potential funders / funding bodies.


Communicating risk

Risk is an unavoidable element of our society, and medicine, science and technology – as drivers for change – inherently bring risk along with their new developments. But, at the same time, medicine, science and technology are essential to the solution and avoidance of risk. This module introduces trainees to essential issues involved in communicating scientific topics that contain an element of risk, such as new technologies or potential pandemic diseases. Participants therefore get to understand that a range of cultural, social and psychological factors, not just narrow scientific facts, combine to create an understanding of risk among various publics. The scientific facts may not be the deciding factor in how people decide to act relative to a risk. The module will explore the differences between communicating ready-made science and science-in-the making, which involves uncertainty. In learning how to communicate science that contains risk or uncertainty, “experts” must also learn to listen as well as explaining their own view clearly. In this module, trainees will take part in a scenario exercise where they have to communicate a current scientific topic involving risks to various affected stakeholders. This involves trainees being put, themselves, into the roles not just of scientific researchers with information to impart, but also citizens with various professions and interests.


Science in dialogue (talking science and listening)

Scientists will face both opportunities and obligations in their careers to discuss their research face-to-face with various interested non-scientists who are participating in the science policy process. These non-scientists may include politicians, policy- makers, interest groups, community groups, business representatives, and members of the general public. These communication situations frequently occur outside the prepared environments of formal presentations or the unique situations of mass media interviews – and so demand a set of interpersonal skills. In the current political climate of science and society interaction, dialogue has been noted as a crucial means of engaging with the public, especially in areas where sections of the public are recognized as having a level of non-professional expertise, or lay expertise, in a scientific area. This module introduces trainees to conceptions of science in dialogue, and outlines key interpersonal communication skills needed to engage effectively in discussion and dialogue with others. Special emphasis is paid to active listening. The module introduces central topics, with short exercises used to put these skills into practice. It culminates in a scenario exercise in which participants will assume the role of different interest groups – including scientific researchers – in society who are meeting to reach consensus on a pressing social or economic issue that has a significant scientific dimension. Scenarios that are relevant to (at least some of) the trainees disciplines and expertise will be used.


Social science for science communication

Several of the tasks in planning and evaluating major science communication activities – e.g. festivals, engagement processes, museum exhibits – required skills and knowledge drawn from the social sciences. Where required by trainees, this module can be offered as an optional session. It is designed to enhance the awareness of trainees about the relevance of social science resources for better understanding and improving their interaction with non-experts. Starting with examples of practical situations, the module will introduce trainees to some of the methods and tools that the social sciences can offer. Trainees will then carry out practical exercises, relevant to their own disciplines and expertise, that make use of the methods presented.


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