Universities are one of the most important birthplaces of scientific knowledge. Their international research teams, the private and government funding they receive, and the fantastic installations they often have make them ideal places for natural sciences breakthroughs. Yet, science communication is not entirely their strength.

Communicating science to other researchers and the rest of society, the general public, is paramount to inspire people and help them understand the impact that science, technology, and engineering have in their everyday lives, allowing them to make better-informed decisions. This is especially important nowadays, where we are living through a pandemic, climate change and are lucky enough to have a supercomputer at the reach of our fingers.

More and more universities are hiring science communication and outreach professionals

So the importance of reaching out to the general public and policymakers has become evident. Yet, teaching the skill has not entirely been mastered, and it even has a ‘bad rep’ among academics.

Alan Leshner, Chief Executive Officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, pointed out in 2007 that “Many [scientists] even feel that the culture of science actively discourages them from becoming involved in public outreach because it would somehow be bad for their careers.”

Additionally, some universities undermine the benefits of spreading the wisdom of scientific knowledge to the lay public and only see it as a way of advertising themselves. Not seeing the bigger picture in which society can benefit from acquiring a better understanding of science, just as much as the academics and researchers can benefit from living in a more knowledgeable community that will feel more inspired, educated and empowered through science.

Although universities are some of the most prominent science communicators, there are still some changes that need to happen. As Nature points out, some key things need to change to improve the communication of sciences from universities to the non-academic world. First, researchers need to be taught how to communicate with the general public, and there need to be better incentives for academics to do this communication. And lastly, more social scientists need to be involved in the hard sciences research teams because as they focus on human behaviour, they can help to attune research to society better, making research more valuable, visible and easier to communicate.

Published On: February 13, 2021 / Categories: Science Communication /

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