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QUality and Effectiveness in Science and Technology communication

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - QUEST (QUality and Effectiveness in Science and Technology communication)

Reporting period: 2019-02-01 to 2019-10-31

Science Communication (SciCom) plays a key role in addressing today’s 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 efficiently 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 also need to consider that much of today SciCom passes through the digital sphere, 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 aims at facing this challenge with a multi-step approach that will: (1) understand the dynamics of today SciCom (2) design tools to evaluate SciCom quality (3) experiment best practices and proposing innovative ways for SciCom (4) promote SciCom training (5) build an engaging SciCom community. The focus will be on (a) journalism (b) Social media (c) Museums, recognized as having the highest impact in this context. Climate change, Vaccines and Artificial Intelligence are used as case studies.
To pave the path toward the objectives, the work carried out in the Reporting Period I was mainly devoted to:
(i) consolidating the partnership: given the strong multidisciplinary nature of the consortium, we worked to strengthen a cooperative partners team, facilitating the dialogue and promoting interpartners activities: project meetings and regular skype calls; multidisciplinary presence in the events; joint submission to conferences and events.
(ii) setting up the main implementation tools of the project including internal working tools among the partners to guarantee a smooth implementation of the project, e.g. common working platforms (drive, slack …), management guidelines, set up of communication team.
(iii) definition and setting up of communication and dissemination tools including plan, website, social media, identification of key events and scientific journals, for an effective communication and dissemination of the project.
(iv) building a science communication community around QUEST through the identification of key stakeholders and the setting up of an Advisory Board, Stakeholder Group, Guidelines for QUEST Stakeholder Engagement approach , communication and dissemination plan and social media activity, QUEST participation in a high number of events, high number of already implemented co-design activities, QUEST connections with EU funded projects.
(v) all WPs have been kicked off, starting in advance some of the activities exploiting cross-cutting activities and multi-focus events.
Starting from analyising the state of science communication, QUEST will provide journalists, social media content managers and museums explainers with tools and guidelines supporting the production of quality science communication thus limiting misinformation and supporting public engagement. It applies its methodology across different communication modes (science journalism, social media, and science museums/centres), which implies exploring a composite set of communication languages, practices, communication flows and – on the demand side – communication consumption behaviour and needs. This multilayered and multi-stakeholder approach, together with co-creation phases, will guarantee 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. The Summary report on European Science Communication today has been developed and submitted and the co-creation activity has started with 10 events already organised according to the developed Guidelines for QUEST stakeholder engagement approach.
QUEST, supporting quality science communication in general and in all the three modes of communication considered, will facilitate and open a fluent uptake of scientific knowledge by society. In particular, the project will contribute to making R&I more open under several dimensions, through:
• applying in its own practice open data e open access policies, in order to make the project’s results and data fully open and available to the public;
• making science more understandable and closer to citizens, through tools (guidance, KPIs) able to guarantee its quality, and therefore providing citizens with more reliable information and enhanced awareness to participate in the debate on science and technology, research and innovation.
QUEST has already developed its Data Management Plan and set up its Research Data Repository to make the project research results open and accessible to any user. The development of general KPIs has already started through codesign workshops.
Moreover, QUEST will act 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. QUEST will also produce educational toolkits for different targets (scientists, journalists, social media content managers, museum explainers) and a curriculum for master level journalist students on how to communicate research results to the wide public and engage citizens in S&T debate. The exchange with key stakeholders to identify current obstacles and possible incentives has already started though codesign workshops, interviews and surveys. The same are the basis also of the development of the toolkits.