The Story of Science Communication

This is the story of why we should all care and be careful about science communication. A visual summary of my latest talk, including ivory towers, sleeping beauties and digital wildfires:



To understand science communication, we have to understand the core of science – our methods: the whole mechanistics of our striving to question, evaluate and create new knowledge.


Science is a process and as such, science communication should entail an understanding of all of our methods and not merely represent single results (Bultitude (2011) Science Communication – Why and How? Burns et al., (2003). Science communication: A contemporary definition).


Science publications are 1 form of science communication with clear, rigid, (ideally) replicable structure. They can be read at several levels & allow comparability. However, they are almost exclusively read by scientists. Other options: traditional media, outreach, social media…


…but really, there are no boundaries for creativity & options for engagement if you want to provide towards science communication: E.g., Frontiers for Young Minds, Skype a Scientist, TED talks, Cartoon (ERcComics), Comedy, Songs, TV, Dance your PhD, etc.


Why should you care about science communication? There are plentiful utilitarian, economic, cultural and democratic arguments for all of us. But also, personal gains – especially important for younger scientists too (contents adapted from Bultitude 2010 and Osborne (2000)).


Different personal risks have been named, and incentives are lacking. But is this really an excuse for not engaging in science communication and outreach…?


…is this reason for us to continue barricading ourselves in ivory towers and do we need/afford to create more sleeping beauties?

Shapin (2012). The Ivory Tower: the history of a figure of speech and its cultural uses.)


Excursus: why we struggle to separate fake from fiction. Potential reasons: mass of info & limited attention span. With all new media formats info flow is no “gentle snowflakes falling”, but rather a “pillow-in-your-face” kinda situation. Read also: Qiu et al., (2017).
Missing/inaccurate science communication may lead to misrepresentation of scientific facts, methods and our profession. Working together with popular media is key – popular media drive popular believes & digital wildfires are a global risk.
But are we ready? E.g., real-world neuroscience: framing matters & display of norms shape expectation, behaviour and biology! (Altikulaç et al., (2018). The teenage brain… [11] Qu et al., (2018). Youth’s conceptions of adolescence predict longitudinal changes in PFC…)

Science is present in everyday life. We should all care & be careful about science communication in order to reach a science-informed community & research that impacts policies. PIs: value time students invest in scicomm, be a role model, support & do share & show.

…let’s ensure we get a “happily ever after”.

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