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New science communication: Research and Innovation in the Era of the Internet


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Conference offered by David Dickson, editor and founder of, in Barcelona on 12 July 2012

Published in: Technology, Business

New science communication: Research and Innovation in the Era of the Internet

  1. 1. New science communication:research and innovation in the era of the Internet David Dickson Editor and founding director, SciDev.Net Barcelona Centre for International Health Research Centre Esther Koplowitz , Barcelona, 12 July 2012
  2. 2. SummaryWhy communicate?Communicating with scientistsCommunicating with non-scientistsSciDev.Net: science communication anddevelopmentSocial media
  3. 3. Why communicate?
  4. 4. Communication has two main functions:To informTo engage
  5. 5. It can also be used to entertainAn example from YouTube
  6. 6. Science communication:This has two dimensions:With scientific colleaguesWith the non-science community
  7. 7. Communicating with scientists
  8. 8. Internal science communication:2.Scientific papers3.Pre-prints4.Seminars5.Informal communication
  9. 9. Each has been revolutionised by thearrival of the Internet:2.Scientific papers  Electronic publishing  Open access movement3.Pre-prints  Open archiving
  10. 10. 3. Seminars: Video-conferencing (Skype, etc.)4. Informal communication: Social media
  11. 11. Communicating with non-scientists
  12. 12. External science communication:PractitionersPolicy-makersFunders and funding agenciesGeneral public
  13. 13. Science communication with the publicis increasingly importantIt facilitates the contract between scienceand society and a time of demand for extratransparencyIt reflects the new status of science,creating a “culture of science”
  14. 14. Cultural context:Loss of expertise and authority of scientistsChange in the nature of knowledgeproduction (e.g. CERN/LHC)Improved communications and a proliferationof sources of informationDemocratic deficit(Science for All, 2010)
  15. 15. Scientists have a responsibility to communicate“It is an important responsibility for the scientists tocommunicate research results and viewpoints to thepublic, especially in cases of publicly funded research.“This responsibility is exposed to challenges by bothenormous opportunities and new threats for effectivescience communication provided by new informationtechnologies.” ICSU Advisory Note, December 2010
  16. 16. Scientists’ response:Survey of 1485 UK research scientists showed thatthe main reasons for engaging in sciencecommunication related primarily to perceived externalneeds.The most popular motivation (35%) was given as “Toensure the public is better informed about science andtechnology”(People Science Policy, 2006: 28)
  17. 17. SciDev.Net and its activities
  18. 18. World-wide web has: Eliminated the transaction of costs of communicating information Opened up new opportunities for science communication in general, and science journalists in particular.
  19. 19. SciDev.Net’s premise:The communication of accurate andaccessible information about science andtechnology, and their contributions to innovation,is essential to the objectives of:achieving economic growthreducing poverty, andenabling environmental sustainability
  20. 20. Policymakers at all levels need accurate, timely and reliable information about role of science and technology in meeting development objectives.
  21. 21. At the same time …The public understanding of science and technology ensures open and democratic debate about the promises they offer – as well as how to handle their potentially negative consequences
  22. 22. As a result:The demand for both improved science communication and improved science communication skills is increasing rapidly in the developing world
  23. 23. Our activitiesOperating a free-access website( containing news, views andanalysis about science and technology in thedeveloping worldOrganising workshops and other activities toenhance the capacity of both professional sciencecommunicators – such as journalists – andresearchers to provide reliable and authoritativeinformation on such issues
  24. 24. Our website …
  25. 25. The website contains News Feature articlesOpinion articlesBi-weekly editorialRegular ‘spotlights’Notices (including lists of meetings, grants and jobs)Links (e.g. to scientific organisations and journals)Comments from users
  26. 26. Current situation  In operation since 2001  > 60,000 registered users  Almost ¾ (73.2%) are in developing countries  > 50,000 hits per week  > 120 freelance contributors around the developing world
  27. 27. Science communication and social media
  28. 28. How do you use social media?(AstraZeneca study of 382 scientists)4.Read/watch online content: 61 percent5.Post comments: 18 percent6.Join conversations: 17 percent7.Update status online: 10 percent8.Generate content: 7 percent
  29. 29. What is the value in social media?3.Information sharing/collaboration: 62 percent4.Knowledge building: 61 percent5.Networking: 61 percent6.Participating in discussion: 33 percent7.Getting the message out/thought leadership: 10percent
  30. 30. How much value does social media deliver to scientists?• Absolutely essential: 6 percent• Very valuable: 18 percent• Valuable: 33 percent• Somewhat valuable: 35 percent• Minimum value: 8 percent
  31. 31. Guidance from AAAS on the use of social media Be social and network. Use social networking sites to announce your latest discovery and be ready to discuss your work. Link to others whose interests you share and ask and answer questions.
  32. 32. Be legal It is illegal in most countries to make false claims against another person or organisation in print (libel) If youre not sure youre reporting the truth, it may be better to leave some things out if they could be damaging to someone.
  33. 33. Be discreet Dont reveal preliminary information that scientific competitors could exploit, possibly damaging your career (or those of your colleagues). Wait until publication is imminent Never reveal your colleagues research without their permission.
  34. 34. Be politically aware Before criticising your governments scientific or environmental policy, for example, consider whether you might endanger your funding, your position, or your university.
  35. 35. Be sensitive An issue that may might be acceptable within your profession, such as sacrificing animals for research, may not be as acceptable to others. Consider rephrasing sensitive topics.
  36. 36. Be moderate Social media can be mildly addictive. Use it a little bit each day. If you find it impairing your research time, scientific reputation or real-life social life, youre probably using it too much.
  37. 37. Above all, be active!
  38. 38. For more information, and to register to receivefree weekly email alert, visit us at www.scidev.netOr contact me at: