Manuel VALENÇA, ISCTE-IUL, Portugal
Extensive research in Social Psychology and Sociology shows that the higher a person’s identification with a specific identity (e.g. professional, religious, political), the higher the frequency or commitment to identity-related behaviours. In a young field such as Science Communication, that needs to consolidate its community of practitioners, the concept of professional identity assumes special relevance.
However, few studies have targeted science communication practitioners and their professional identity. Addressing this gap, we aimed to 1) identify the factors that contribute to the science communicator professional identity; 2) identify and characterize the profiles of these professionals based on their practices, expectations, connection to the organization and the professional occupation.
A mixed-methods approach was implemented to achieve these goals: a quantitative study (online survey, N = 231), followed by a qualitative one (semi-structured interviews, N = 27). Based on a two-stage cluster sampling process, we sampled 143 Portuguese organizations (among universities, research centres, science museums, etc.).
Multiple regression models show that both individual (e.g. formal education degree) and contextual (e.g. work objectives) factors can predict the intensity of the practitioners’ identification with the science communicator identity. It also shows that the combined contextual factors possess a higher contribution for this identification than the aggregated individual factors.
Among the Portuguese community of practitioners, we identified four different profiles - the Pragmatic, the Craftsperson, the Advocator, and the Missionary, that exhibit a distinct pattern across the targeted dimensions (e.g. connection with the science communication professional occupation; professional development practices; professionalization aspirations; work roles ambitions). This profile construction process included a Latent Class Analysis, a Multiple Discriminant Analysis, and 27 interviews with practitioners from the four profiles.
These results demonstrate that this is not a homogeneous professional group. Many of its members have not embraced the science communicator identity, reflecting on lower professional development practices and higher turnover rates. These study findings can inform future strategies to enhance these practitioners: a) commitment to the occupation; b) engagement with research; c) recognition of their expertise within the organizations’ structure.