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QUality and Effectiveness in Science and Technology communication

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - QUEST (QUality and Effectiveness in Science and Technology communication)

Reporting period: 2019-11-01 to 2021-07-31

Science Communication (SciCom) plays a key role in addressing today societal challenges. To be effective, it must be conceived as multi-directional communication, involving scientists, policy-makers, journalists, other communications actors and citizens. On one side, scientists produce research results but are not always equipped to communicate effectively to the public and to policy-makers. On the other, journalists and other communications actors act as the interface between science, citizens and other audiences, although they may face challenges in fully comprehending the scientific message. Citizens will have a varied perception of the information received but limited knowledge and tools impeding a qualitative assessment. The variety of means of communication existing today makes communications faster and easier, but that increases the complexity of these interactions and the challenge to communicate “sound” science. We need to consider that much of today SciCom passes through the digital media, as the advent of digitalization has changed the way in which information flows and opinions are shaped, also regarding science. Social media are one of the key representatives of these modern means of communication, deserving a special focus. In this context, the challenge faced by SciCom is in finding effective, non-hierarchical ways to exchange these diverse forms of knowledge, by making SciCom stakeholders interact in a constructive way through the different media.
QUEST faces this challenge with a multi-step approach aimed at: (1) understanding the dynamics of today SciCom (2) designing tools to evaluate SciCom quality (3) experimenting best practices and proposing innovative ways for SciCom (4) supporting capacity building in SciCom (5) building an engaging SciCom community. The focus is on Journalism, Social media, Museums, as strands of high impact in this context. Climate change, Vaccines and Artificial Intelligence are used as case studies.
Following this approach, QUEST has produced a series of exploitable outputs for promoting quality and effective science communication, that can be adopted by scientists, journalists, museum explainers, communication officers, social media content managers, decision makers and the lay public.
These outputs include:
(i) Summary reports on European Science Communication today and on Science Communication education and training in Europe,
(ii) Guidelines for QUEST stakeholder engagement approach,
(iii) 12 KPIs for Quality Assessment in Science Communication,
(iv) 4 Educational Toolkits on quality Science Communication for scientists, journalists, museum explainers and social media content managers, with 6 podcasts, a digital tool for journalists, Summary report on good practices for Science Communication on Social Media, New Form of Handbook for Academic Writing in Museums, checklists for supporting scientist in quality communication, science explainers for journalists, guidelines for social media quality science communication,
(iv) Policy and incentive Recommendations for promoting quality science communication.
All of the QUEST outputs are available in a digital and printable version at QUEST and project partners’ websites.
To reach the objectives, QUEST has worked to
- building and consolidating the QUEST community through (i) enlarging the QUEST Stakeholder Group (SG) - 16 key international institutions involved, (ii) participating in a high number of events related to the different SciCom communities – 62 events, (iv) organizing a high number of QUEST co-design events – 536 participants, (v) regularly connecting with all others SwafS-19 funded projects, (vi) building a robust communication and dissemination campaign based on a strong and easy recognizable visual identity, the project website - over 27.000 sessions, newsletters issued regularly - over 400 subscribers, a large social media networking - 2341 followers, and high number of dissemination activities – over 4000 participants exposed to QUEST outputs, developing and disseminating tools for supporting and building capacities in scientists, journalists, museum explainers and social media content managers in quality science communication, graphically elaborated in a digital and printable version available at QUEST and partners’ websites - over 3000 downloads;
- contributing to create a proper context for quality science communication by developing 30 recommendations for policy and decision makers, tackling the key 23 challenges identified for the different strands and stakeholders. To facilitate their uptake, the recommendations are gathered in 5 factsheets for the different decision makers;
- disseminating the project results among the target audience and beyond, through stand-alone events and activities such as webinars and trainings held at key conferences as well as ad hoc events - 10 events; 7 peer reviewed open access publications, 1 publication on a magazine, 1 book under development.

In terms of exploitation, QUEST outputs are used as follow:
(i) QUEST Toolkits adopted by the project partners in their teaching and training activities, with also new courses on SciCom launched, based on QUEST research results and the knowledge acquired; (ii) Toolkits disseminated to journalists, decision-makers and scientists/researchers through webinars, trainings and Toolkits’ posters sent to different labs/institutions; (iii) Policy Recommendations exploited through partners playing specific advising roles; INQUEST contents and features integrated into the commercial JECT.AI product, to be marketed and offered as a digital tool for journalism - over 170 already registered users.
Starting from analyising the state of the art of science communication as well as challenges and barriers to quality SciCom, QUEST provides relevant basis for better understanding the current status of science communication and promoting more quality in it.
It has developed and applied a replicable codesign methodology across different communication modes (journalism, social media, and science museums), which implies exploring a composite set of communication languages, practices, communication flows and – on the demand side – communication consumption behaviors and needs. Together with a multi-stakeholder approach, QUEST methodology has guaranteed a sharp insight within the mechanisms of science communication, allowing the consortium to elaborate recommendations, educational toolkits, guidelines and a digital tool that are effective, accepted, and useful for their target audiences, proving an impact in the whole SciCom ecosystem.
QUEST educational toolkits for different targets (scientists, journalists, social media content managers, museum explainers) and the curriculum for master level journalist students on how to communicate research results to the wide public and engage citizens in S&T debate will impact both science and society at large by enhancing scientists’ awareness on the role of SciCom, scientists and communicators’ capacities to effectively communicate about science as well as citizens’ literacy and engagement in science.
QUEST Policy Recommendations acts on governance, sensitizing it and providing guidelines on what incentives they can provide for supporting quality science communication, that includes the uptake of RRI as a basis for quality of research results to be communicated.
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