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What do we know about science communication?

By Gabrielle Bueno

Nowadays, the major role of science in our society is undeniable. With the rise of technology and more resources to understand the world around us, scientists develop new discoveries every single day. The amount of knowledge continues to expand, but are the researchers able to keep up with so many new things, connect and even help each other through common scientific interests? And how is it all shared with regular people that are not working or even studying science? That’s where Science Communication comes in.

The concept of Science Communication is simple: it’s the exchange of knowledge obtained in the science community with the community itself. This is essential because sharing the advances among researchers can help for mutual growth. However, when it comes to action, there are many factors to be considered for efficient communication.

First of all, it is necessary to clarify the difference between information and communication. Information is the final product while communication consists of the mediating process of exchanging the information from one source to another.

To avoid misunderstandings, it is necessary to standardize the nomenclatures and terminologies. That means making sure there aren’t different words being used with the same meaning, which could make it harder to find articles about the same subject. It is also useful when it comes to the accessibility and retrieval of these articles, with the right keywords, scientists can more easily find other researches related to their own. Another important point to be considered is making the author’s address/contact visible so it is easier to contact them.

Another side of Science Communication is bringing the gathered technical information in a clear, understandable way, to the general public. There are current practical examples to prove the importance of this facet of science communication: Worldwide we have been facing the COVID-19 pandemic for more than a year now. Even though many scientists have made an effort to study and share their knowledge on this virus and how to combat it, it has not always worked: fake news and non-scientific channels have been spreading misinformation, resulting in people not taking the correct measures and questioning their trust on science in general. This scenario can make us see how proper, planned communication can make a difference and even save people’s lives.

Having access to information is a right: one cannot be an active citizen without information, but having it can really transform one’s reality. Understanding the world, the scientific discoveries that may impact their lives, directly or indirectly, can help people to have evidence and, many times, take the first step, proving something needs to change and claim their social, political, health, and many other rights.

To communicate about scientific topics to the general public, it is necessary to do it in a compelling and informative way. Most importantly, the information must be passed while explaining every step in a simple manner, to bridge the gap between the researcher and the public. First, it is crucial to know exactly what audience you desire to achieve, what is the base of their knowledge, how they understand the world. That facilitates the process of explaining more academic terms and concepts using their references so it is more understandable.

Storytelling is another way to make communication more successful. Science can sometimes be portrayed as distant, so mediating in a way the audience can relate promotes a better understanding of how that idea can impact their lives. That also happens when using images, it can make a harder subject more approachable in a visual manner. Communication is a science in itself and there are many studies on how to do it competently, reading about it is very helpful.

Most importantly, within all of these scenarios, one thing cannot be forgotten: listening. To be sure the communication happened correctly it is good to ask if the message was clear if there are any doubts and what is the other’s point of view on the subject. This ensures that the information is not only being launched without any regard of how it will settle in other minds, but the others will also have the chance to present themselves and actually exchange ideas. It has to be a two-way conversation, a dialogue.

In summary, it is vital to analyze many aspects to performing effective science communication, considering the whole process as a bridge between one and another, that being the scientific community itself or the general population. The main goal is to make a habit to reflect on how scientific knowledge is being transmitted to all sources if the message is being completely understood and how we can use it to grow together in the science field and as a society.

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