The Importance of Science Communication

The practice of making science more understandable to the public in one form or another has manifested itself for a long time, almost simultaneously with its inception.

Scientific communication

Science communication. Image Credit: BRO.vector/Shutterstock.com

Nowadays, interest is growing on both fronts, science becomes an increasingly complex and expensive industry, and on the other, the role of society as a “customer” and “sponsor” of research forms a clear demand for an understandable and accessible description of science.

Therefore, the term “science communication” is now more often used than “popularization”, since the active role of all participants in this process is recognized.

Making science understandable to the public can remove the existing disorientation in society and bring confidence in the future. Therefore, science simply must be open, understandable, and accessible to the masses, rather than hiding behind the doors of offices and university auditoriums. Science needs to be communicated with everyone in an understandable and accessible language.

Many scientists already use accessible methods to communicate. Novelties in medicine and viruses, new materials and environmental problems, digitalization of the environment, space exploration - scientists are already telling people gathered in everyday settings about all this and much more.

Science communication

The phenomenon of science communication can be studied from different sides of the chain of knowledge transfer: first, from the position of scientists (the "source"); the population (their "recipient"); and the media, science journalists, and communicators working in science organizations and universities (the "transmitters").

Role of universities

Since universities act as centers not only for the production of science knowledge but also for its transfer, as well as important platforms for dialogue between scientists and people not associated with science, their role in organizing and to some extent institutionalizing science communication can be key.

Difficulty in establishing a common language

Public activity is a rather laborious process that requires special skills, knowledge, and skills from a modern scientist, and not every researcher has them developed.

The motives for participation also depend on the quality of the work of science journalists and their observance of professional ethics. Therefore, the ambiguous attitude of scientists towards speaking in the media, their unwillingness to participate in this can be associated either with a negative experience of interaction or with distrust of the media.

More research is needed to study "non-participation", but this is a completely understandable and reasonable position of scientists - to concentrate only on the main type of activity.

Effective forms of making science more understandable

A problem that science news is facing is that it is not presented as the main agenda of large TV channels and print media. However, there are also difficulties with specialized publications. So far, the popularization of science is mainly aimed at those people who are already involved in the consumption of science news.

Generally, these are people with higher education. We need to look for alternative formats to expand the audience. Working adults have little free time, so special approaches and experiments are needed. It is possible that with a successful presentation, popular science content will be in demand.

A clear demonstration of the power that the media has in popularizing science is the discovery of X-Rays, announced in an article by Wilhelm Roentgen in 1895. By chance, a couple of days later, the editor of the Vienna newspaper Neue Freie Presse saw a copy of this article, and a message about X-Rays appeared on the front page of national newspapers.

It was reprinted the next day by the London Chronicle and the New York Sun, and a few days later by the New York Times. The discovery instantly became known to almost the whole world and was received very favorably in the academic environment.

The following year, it was referenced in more than a thousand science articles, becoming a global triumph.

Scientists

Scientists. Image Credit: Nestor Rizhniak/Shutterstock.com

Understanding and popularizing science is crucial for society

Today, technologies are being introduced into urban infrastructure, penetrating literally all spheres of everyday life. Artificial intelligence, big data, "smart" robots - all this has become part of the modern urban environment. And access to these latest technologies is open to everyone. Openness, accessibility and high-speed change are the main features of modernity.

To make sense of this confusing mass of information are people with a scientific background: popularizers, science journalists, editors, lecturers, illustrators, and sometimes researchers themselves.

These types of people have the necessary knowledge and skills to popularize and facilitate an understanding of a complex topic for non-professionals. This is a very difficult challenge, which today does not bring a comprehensive victory over the dangers of pseudoscience and is often carried out solely out of love for one's work.

The greatest resonance is always caused by those scientific topics that affect a person at the everyday level. What should you eat to protect yourself from the negative effects of aging? How can you prevent the development of cancer? Is the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine safe? Science in such situations suggests a certain decision-making strategy and supplies a person with data that can help predict reality.

References

  • Eva Thomm, Rainer Bromme. (2012). “It should at least seem scientific!” Textual features of “scientificness” and their impact on lay assessments of online information.
  • Yael Barel-Ben David, Erez S. Garty, Ayelet Baram-Tsabari. (2020). Can scientists fill the science journalism void? Online public engagement with science stories authored by scientists. PLoS ONE.
  • Thomas Pfeiffer, Robert Hoffmann. (2009). Large-Scale Assessment of the Effect of Popularity on the Reliability of Research. PLoS ONE.
  • MacRitchie, Finlay (2011). "Introduction". Scientific Research as a Career (1st ed.). New York, New York: Routledge.
  • Fischer, M.R.; Fabry, G (2014). "Thinking and acting scientifically: Indispensable basis of medical education". GMS Zeitschrift für Medizinische Ausbildung.

 

Last Updated: Mar 28, 2022

Dmitry Dorofeev

Written by

Dmitry Dorofeev

After completing his bachelor’s degree in market research and psychology in 2019 in New Zealand and Germany, Dmitry moved to London to pursue a career within the healthcare sector to oversee research projects in science and medicine, with a focus on how innovative technologies help drive and shape this industry.

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