As the western society gradually turns into a knowledge- and risk society, where science and scientific innovations increasingly both promise to save the world and destroy it, a shift in the relation between the scientific community and the rest of society has emerged. A shift from a top-down one-way transfer view regarding communication, to a dialogue-based interactive co-production model, where the public are part of setting the agenda for research and contribute to the knowledge production. Or at least in theory, in EU documents and in many different country's policy documents. In practical application however, one might have a hard time see the implementation of such model.
As a more comprehensive and dialogue-based science communication is depending on the possibility for scientist themselves to engage and fell the need to engage, we have focused on their thoughts.
In this thesis we have examined six scientists view on, and work with, science communication, as well as their perceived social and structural conditions. We have also examined action plans and strategy documents from three Swedish universities that in different ways mention science communication and interaction with the broader society. Finally we have compared the view on science communication that we have found in the documents with that of the scientists.
We have used qualitative interviews to gather information from the six scientists, who range from 30 to 60 years in age and come from different fields of study. For the documents we used a qualitative analyse, searching for different areas regarding science communication and interaction with society.
Our finding show that both the view of the scientist and that of the documents, regarding science communication, more resemble that of the older one-way transfer model, although some minor parts remind of a dialogue-based model.
All the scientists we have interviewed are positive to science communication, especially for its possibility to increase the knowledge in general society and set a ground for better decision making, and also to give legitimacy for both research and the decisions based on it.
Regarding their practical work with science communication, no one have fixed routines, and the time they spend differ greatly. It is mostly reactive in nature and consist of lectures, popular science articles, participation in interviews in media and conferences etcetera. Three of the scientists use, or are about to use, websites where they communicate their science.
Socially, most of the scientists both talk extensively with their colleagues about science communication and feel that they think it is important. When it comes to their superior or employer view on science communication most of the scientists don't feel that they act as if it is a subject of concern. Regarding to the academic world at large, they think it is both seen as something positive and sometimes negative. For example some scientists may see it as a positive and important work, while others see the science communication as being part of self promotion and a attempt to raise more funds for specific research. The scientists still feel principle encourage to work with science communication.
The structural conditions differ between the different scientists, and only one has had training in science communication, although three think they have the possibility to get training. All the scientist have possibility to get some help with their communication however. Two of the scientists felt that their conditions for working with science communication are sufficient, while others feel the need for more resources, time and natural environments for engagement.
In the action plans and strategy documents we found five interesting areas regarding science communication and engagement with the broader society. First of are their view on science communication and its positive effects. Here all the universities point at the importance of science communication for a sustainable development. They also focus on the benefit for the research in utilizing the knowledge and experience of the broader society. Secondly two of the universities give examples on how they work with science communication. Here they mention open lectures, seminars, study visits, among other. The third area focus on the education of scientist in science communication. Here KTH strongly emphasis the importance education for good leadership and communicative skills for scientists. Fourth, the need for better structural conditions is something that Södertörn stresses, both regarding funding, merits and different departments’ tasks regarding science communication. Last, the importance of business related education as a way of spreading knowledge is something that all the universities focus on.
2010. , 82 p.
Science communication, popular science, scientists, researcher, qualitative interviews, public understanding of science
Forskningskommunikation, vetenskaplig kommunikation, forskare, kvalitiva intervjuer, utbildning, samverkan, strukturer, möjlighet till hjälp, proaktiv, reaktiv.