Look around you. What do you see? If you are a scientist, you might see the beauty that science has produced in the modern world and the endless nourishment it provides to the hungry human imagination. Now think about what a non-scientist sees. Often, non-scientists cannot fully appreciate the importance of scientific progress, or the research you do behind closed laboratory doors. The key to making them understand the importance of your research is communication.
“From a normative perspective, science communication is important because scientific research is, to a large extent, publicly funded and takes place within democratic societies. Also, examples like the protests against animal research or GMOs in Germany show that the public can directly or indirectly (via public opinion and political decisions) influence, which kind of research is done and which kind of scientific questions are asked,” says Ricarda Ziegler, executive assistant at Wissenschaft im Dialog, Germany.
Ziegler is among the invited speakers of the Comm4Science conference, taking place in May in Heidelberg. She will speak about the development and the state-of-the-art of science communication in Germany. “Based on the perception of a crisis of trust in science, and in order to promote scientific studies and scientific careers, the late 90s and early 2000s were characterised by efforts to popularise science. Fifteen years later, it is common sense that there is no simple relationship between knowledge of science and the acceptance or appreciation of science. Therefore, today’s approaches in science communication are much more diverse, dialogue-oriented and focussed on specific target groups,” the political scientist observed. In her talk, she deals with the question whether such formats “can and should have an influence on public attitudes towards science in general and specific technologies”
Other talks at the event that wants to bridge the gap between hard-core science and society include ‘Help Yourself, Help Journalists’ by Louisa Field (freelancer with the Danish Broadcasting Corporation), which will “provide essential tips an how to work effectively and smoothly with journalists”, and science writer Michael Groß analyses the “evolving challenges of science communication” in his talk titled “Complex Problems, Short Attention Spans”. The highlights of the Comm4Science conference are two workshops and the final discussion panel, where speakers will answer questions submitted anonymously by the attendees.
“It is crucial to emphasise how science affects the daily lives of people and not only to focus on scientific questions but also to discuss the moral, political, legal and economic implications of research,” Ricarda Ziegler concludes.