Liliann FISCHER, Wissenschaft im Dialog, Germany
Ricarda ZIEGLER, Wissenschaft im Dialog, Germany
Many have observed how the coronavirus pandemic has fueled the trend towards increased science communication. New formats and channels are springing up everywhere and science communication is taking place in many unexpected circumstances (such as on Tik Tok, Reddit or Twitch). Germany is no exception to this trend. On the contrary, broad political support for science communication has put the topic on the national agenda.
However, in the midst of this rush of excitement, it is important not to be tempted to see science communication as an end in itself. It should rather be seen as a strategy that needs to be carefully designed in order to reach certain ends. While a more structured approach to science communication is gaining a foothold in both research and practice, it is surprising how little attention has been paid to the reflection of goals in science communication. In science communication policy we see an abundance of vague and abstract goal formulations and in science communication practice this is reflected in a striking conflation of such broad visions and concrete project objectives. In science communication research we observe a conglomerate of science communication goals, that are oftentimes mentioned in passing without analysing their different conceptual and theoretical backgrounds and characteristics.
In the Impact Unit (a project by the German organisation Wissenschaft im Dialog) we propose a typology which aims to cover the whole spectrum of differently characterised science communication goals and places them on three distinct goal dimensions (namely: form of communication, effect on attitudes and motives for communication). To illustrate the logic of the typology and the contribution it can make to the field of science communication research, a pilot analysis of strategic science communication goals in Germany was conducted. This qualitative content analysis included 120 policy documents by key actors of institutional science communication. The results clearly show an emphasis on dialogue and participation oriented goals as well as a strong motivation for science communication in the public interest.
We believe that such a structured approach to the goals of science communication can contribute to science communication on different levels. For strategic actors in politics and funding it can help shape their broader science communication strategies. For practitioners it can help the strategic design of science communication activities by aligning them with the achievement of certain goals. For science communication researchers it can contribute towards a more differentiated analysis of different forms of science communication, analysing processes and effects in accordance with specific goals.
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