Communicating science

Communicating science may appear straightforward at first glance, but it certainly is not. Many questions can be asked. When and how do different people communicate about science, for what purpose, and to what effect? What role do social values play when people discuss science? What and whose science gets communicated where, and what science is ignored? How do people come to distinguish or present something as ‘fake’ or ’true’? 

When taking a closer look at such basic questions we can learn a lot. We see that authorities and citizens alike communicate about science to pursue social and political goals, whereby different groups make selective choices about what to communicate and what not. We witness that scientists can communicate with audiences at various stages in the scientific process, and that this can have meaningful consequences for how societal challenges are defined and addressed.

We learn that it is far from simple to connect knowledge originating from different scientific disciplines, and that it can be equally challenging to fruitfully integrate local and experiential knowledge with scientists’ perspectives. And we can come to understand when, how, where and why ‘communicating science’ takes the form of controversy, debate, deliberation or dialogue.

Deepening our understanding of such dynamics is important, especially in an era where scientists are under increasing pressure to demonstrate that their work has societal relevance and impact. In this light, the ability to anticipate and navigate the communication of science in the societal and political arena where different values and belief systems may collide, is becoming an increasingly important skill. Many CPT courses are directed at building such analytical and practical capacities.