There are a growing number of terms being used in communicating research. For simplicity within the wider scope of research uptake management we use the term ‘research communication’ (or ‘communicating research’) which includes the practice of science communication, an increasingly recognised professional field of presenting science related topics to non-experts.
Research communication is about making research relevant, accessible and meaningful to specific public or policy audiences (and even to other researchers who work in different fields). It links closely with the concept of public science engagement, which is about creating opportunities for meaningful interactions and mutual learning between researchers and the public.
The process of communicating research is not only about transferring facts and information. To be effective, it must connect current research to people’s everyday lives. It often involves presenting research topics to non-experts in innovative and creative ways. To truly communicate, information, views and ideas must flow in many directions, also from society back to the research community. Listening to people to understand their concerns and expectations around research is of key importance.
Research (or science) communication typically aims to increase public awareness of, and interest in, science, as well as to support understanding of important issues in current research. Some research communication initiatives are designed to get people to accept and support research endeavours, as well as to promote the organisations where researchers work. Since science (including ongoing research) is central to people’s lives, an equally important aim is to engage people in conversations about science in order to promote informed public dialogue and critical debate.
As a field of practice, research communication encompasses all fields of “STEAM” (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) as well as the social sciences and humanities. Typical activities include science outreach, public science events; online engagement and efforts to promote the quality and quantity of media coverage of research findings. Creative collaborations with visual and performing arts have become a popular way of sharing science.
Research (science) communication is also emerging as a dynamic and multi-disciplinary field of research, with a growing number of universities around the world offering degree and graduate programmes, and a number of research journals devoted to the field. Researchers in the field of science communication typically focus on topics such as “public awareness of science”; “public understanding of science”; “scientific literacy” and “scientific culture”.
1 For the purpose of this guide, the terms “research communication” and “science communication” are used interchangeably.
Is research communication an important topic on the radar of the top management of your university? Why, or why not?
How is research communication defined in your institution?
Is it possible to generate (and document/share) an ‘agreed’ definition of ‘research communication’ in order to promote a shared understanding of the concept within your institution.
“It is especially important to equip young researchers and even research students with skills and confidence to communicate their work – to other scientists, but also to encourage broader societal impact and policy uptake.” Dr Achille Elvice Bella, director of university cooperation at the University of Yaoundé, Cameroon