Diaries reveal global science communication realities
Given the increasingly prominent role that science plays in the daily lives of people around the world – affecting decisions in the health, energy, agriculture and industrial sectors, to name but a few – the ability to explain scientific principles and procedures is paramount in securing public support. Despite the global impact of science endeavours, most large-scale research into science communication has been concentrated in the United States and Europe, which have invested significantly in this field. “This has resulted in a somewhat biased representation of science communication, despite incredible work being carried out all over the world,” says Joseph Roche, project coordinator from Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, the project host. “With GlobalSCAPE (Global Science Communication and Perception) we focused on regions of the world that have been given less focus in science communication research, especially the Global South.” While still under way, the project has already engaged more than 1 000 science communication professionals globally.
The diary studies
GlobalSCAPE uses a diary study methodology. Over a period of around a year, participants are invited to provide short weekly reflections on the challenges and opportunities they are presented with as science communication professionals. “Most research in this field relies on cross-sectional surveys which only give a snapshot of what is happening at one point in time. Diary studies provide more fine-grained data over a much longer period, reflecting detail and patterns over time,” explains Roche. The data was collected using proprietary software from project partner Qualia Analytics. Participants were enrolled on a dedicated platform – supported in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish – which then sent automatic reminders to upload weekly reflections. “The diary study is a new methodology for this field. We experienced strong compliance, low drop-out rates and few technical challenges or questions from participants, so would recommend it,” says Roche. “As the data collection is ongoing, we are only just starting to detect patterns. What is already clear is the huge diversity across the field and that though some individual challenges are locally or culturally specific, some wider challenges, such as COVID-19 and funding, are affecting all of us working in science communication,” Roche adds. The team also partnered with the Network for the Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST) to map science communication in higher education globally. “We wanted to both showcase the depth of courses offered and also analyse the results to understand the distribution of offers and specialisms; the results to be published soon!” explains Roche. Science communication modules for science degree courses, based on the project’s findings, were also developed in two partner universities: Trinity College Dublin and Leiden University in the Netherlands. Additionally, with the help of global partners – Ecsite, SciDev.Net and Springer Nature – GlobalSCAPE offered six in-person science communication training workshops in different regions of the world, with some also online. To help ensure inclusivity, the project used its resources to fund a mobility scheme that helped science communication professionals to attend those workshops.
Enhancing the field
Understanding the challenges and opportunities presented to science communication professionals working around the world is key to building trust between science and society, a critical European Union objective. “GlobalSCAPE’s work to better represent the range of science communication techniques around the world will give practitioners the chance to learn from each other and share best practice, leading to richer and more adaptive science communication,” concludes Roche. The best practice results, alongside other project findings, will be published in a special issue of the ‘Journal of Science Communication’ in 2023. Along with the seven other SwafS-19 projects, GlobalSCAPE will also be joining the forthcoming Horizon Europe project, COALESCE, set up to establish a European Centre for Science Communication.
GlobalSCAPE, science communication, diary, Global South, diversity, inclusivity