Comunicació Científica: un número recent de JCOM

La revista Journal of Scientific Communication porta al seu darrer número diversos articles, entre els quals he trobat especialment interessants els corresponents als comentaris (breus) sobre universitats i comunicació científica. La introducció als quatre comentaris en aquesta secció del número especial de la revista, dedicat a la ciència ciutadana, s’hi diu

Accounts of the growth of science communication, both in individual countries [e.g. Fleming and Star, 2017] and across regions and continents [e.g. Trench et al., 2014] give a central place to universities as locales of practice, education and research in this field. The establishment of university centres and programmes in science communication has been widely seen as a marker of its stabilisation and institutionalisation.

In this Commentary we look at universities’ roles in science communication from several perspectives, through analysis of general trends and case studies. Within a broad view of science communication, ranging from dissemination of scientific information to embedding public dimensions of research into academic structures we distinguish the roles of universities in the following categories, some of which are examined in the following parts of this Commentary:

  • –  employment of practitioners in institutional promotion, educational outreach, science exhibition and other forms of public engagement;
  • –  (short-course) training of scientists and other researchers in public communication;
  • –  (longer-form) degree programmes and mdules, at undergraduate and postgraduate levels;
  • –  academic research, including PhD theses, in science communication and closely related topics;
  • –  consultancy to external bodies in strategy, evaluation and training;
  • –  civic engagement with stakeholders in research, its implications and directions.

The four essays that follow consider: the contributions of universities to professionalisation in science communication, but also the contradictions that arise between different roles (Trench); new models of interdisciplinary research, focused on real-world issues and built around science communication (Wehrmann and Van der Sanden); integrating principles and practices of public engagement into the conduct and organisation of research (Holliman); case study of a university that does it all, including many activities that might elsewhere be done by cities or states (Nepote and Reynoso Haynes).

We have not given focused attention to universities’ production of formal research; this is, at least indirectly, the topic of several surveys of publications in the field [e.g. Guenther and Joubert, 2017]. But, aside from the evidence of increased productivity, and the full pipeline, with increasing number of PhD projects — over 20 currently in one university alone1 — we might well ask whether science communication research is recognised by our peers and by those who allocate resources. Academic policy values formal research above other forms of practice, and science communication has struggled to demonstrate strongly enough intellectual rigour through world-leading research. In this context, notions of a ‘science of science communication’, as expounded in this journal [Kahan, 2015] and elsewhere, may appear attractive but requires careful and critical scrutiny.

Science communication is subject to short-term shifts in university priorities and financial management, and to the vagaries of personnel changes. There is much first-rate teaching, research and professional practice but academia is notoriously conservative in defining institutional structures. Many people working in science communication programmes admit they do not feel secure, and there are very few dedicated science communication centres or departments. The undoubted enthusiasm of university staff who teach, train, consult and research in the field is a major asset in our field. But we need also to influence top-level strategy and mid-level management of resources.

Dels quatre comentaris, m’ha agradat especialment l’exemple de la TU Delft: Universities as living labs for science communication:

Science communication research and education programmes worldwide exhibit notable differences as well as similarities. In this essay the authors claim that this diversity is not a problem. They argue that universities can contribute well to the science communication field, theoretically and in practice, if they invest in building collaborations and make use of the ‘networked pattern’ connecting various actors, contexts and contents. As critical nodes in the networks, universities can enable practitioners to deliver real-life cases, students to participate to find solutions and researchers to investigate and explain. Universities can also prepare their students and (future) practitioners for lifelong learning in the dynamic context of science communication, helping them to become adaptive experts. These two aspects will be illustrated in the case study of Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

Em fa l’efecte que el que es fa a Delft (universitat que vaig tenir la sort de visitar ga gairebé tres anys), és aplicable a d’altres universitats. De fet, diuen que

We have chosen to develop the networked approach because complex science communication problems and becoming adaptive practitioners demand collaboration between various disciplines and design processes, bringing up tensions, paradoxes and ambiguities as daily reality. The approach may work well in our educational context for several reasons. The students have a background in various technical education programmes, ranging from Industrial Design to Applied Mathematics, and can therefore learn a lot from each other when they work together in multidisciplinary teams. Moreover, many of the students have already gained some experience with designing in their technical Bachelor programme and are open to apply design methods to complex science communication problems. Finally, students value the equal and direct contact with project-commissioners in their collaboration. These circumstances offer us a great opportunity to develop and test design methods for science communication and to perform research into adaptive expertise. These methods may need to be adapted for application in other universities, but we are convinced that the networked approach and similar methods can be used in any university.

i per tant posen els estudiants al centre de la pròpia experimentació en comunicació científica. Em semblen idees interessants per explorar al nostre grup.

Foto: la vaig fer a la Biblioteca de la TU Delft CC BY-SA