Science Communication: Increased Importance and the Limits of Training
Science Communication, Public Engagement, Outreach – these topics are gaining importance internationally. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research emphasizes the importance of effective trainings in the field of science communication in several recent publications (e.g. the 2021 #FactoryWisskomm Report or the 2021 BuWiN). However, time is already quite scarce for early career researchers, who need to excel in research, publication, teaching and management – all within just a few years. Thus, even after visiting excellent courses on science communication, often these researchers simply do not find the time to engage in science communication, particularly if there are no easily accessible opportunities to do so (see NaWik, 2021). This leads to only very few scientific principles and results being communicated through early career researchers even though a vast majority of them think that science communication is both important and fun (NaWik, 2021).
Trust is Given to Scientists – Let’s Give Them Opportunities to Reach Out
On the other hand, trust barometers show similar results in many countries: scientists are a lot more trusted by the public than for instance journalists (see e.g. for the US: Pew, 2019, as reported in Nature). Taken all these data together, we decided to provide a platform on which early career researchers can communicate about science to a public audience. We created Science Chatter Hamburg, a WordPress site hosted by Universität Hamburg. We gladly offer early career researchers from DESY and/or Universität Hamburg an account with which they can directly log onto the backend and start creating content. For the experienced or autodidact types, we merely provide a 60 to 90 minute (online) coaching session in which we explain the basics of handling the WordPress site and our rules of publishing – then they can create away.
Workshops: not just Theory but Practice
For those with interest in science communication but no prior experience or the wish to receive a more structured training, we offer workshops for different formats. We started off with blogging – within the workshop sessions the participants not only learned some basics and best practice examples of science blogging but also directly create their own blog posts. In our podcasting workshop, participants learned about audio products and how to create them – and then all record their very own podcast episode. In our science slam workshop, we prepared participants to present their projects on stage – a week later they entertained a public audience with their performances. In the video workshop, we spend a morning on video basics and then let people record their videos. On a second day, we help with cutting, editing – and eventually with publishing their videos.
Reaching an Audience
In this project, training and qualification of early career researchers is our focus. We thus don’t invest a lot of effort into maximizing the reach of Science Chatter Hamburg. Frankly, hearing stories of PhD students writing about their projects and sending the link to their post to their families is what drives us most. Making a single grandparent proud is worth more to us than a 1000 likes on a social media platform. Nevertheless, we support our content creators in spreading the word – for this we use our social networks but also encourage all of them to act as multipliers for their peers. We love to see the Science Chatter community grow.