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Mar 27, 2018 50 tweets 29 min read
Tuesday’s topic: researcher’s engagement in #scicomm. We’ll touch on a few subjects: S1/ why should (or not) researchers get involved? S2/ researcher vs #scicomm skills, what is important to know when engaging the public? S3/ what motivates/prevents researchers engagement?
Well I know I just started, but I will actually pause since it’s a very involving first @ScienceShakers I’m attending!
Kudos to the organizers of this first #scicomm community meeting in Paris
When I started the @CercleFSER, I tried to look at what was already being done, to not replicate it. Basically I tried to apply this big picture framework I had used in research: are there big holes in what is being done and low hanging fruits that can be leverages?
From a quick survey of France’s #scicomm landscape, it seemed that there was a big question that was not enough addressed (although there are things being done, don't get me wrong): the engagement of researchers in #scicomm.
And compared to other countries where it became a major discussion topic (thinking about the US) for example, it is still not enough a subject of interest in France.
Researcher's engagement is a huge leverage in terms of scientific literacy. Data is rare, but shows levels of engagement in #scicomm among researchers in France that can be improved.
(active = had at least one #scicomm activity, including teaching, in the last year)
If only 2/3 of all people involved in academic research in France were involved each year in #scicomm, it would be enough for 80% of French citizen to have met with 7 researchers as high school students.
Society would probably be a bit different (more on that and Declics later)
S1/ So is it important for researchers to be #CitizenResearchers & be involved with society?
Well clearly for me, also probably for others following this account (I see you potatoes😘), the question is rethorical, it's a YES.
It is important to consider however how & what for.
I had heard that from researchers, and sometimes from prof. #scicommers that #scicomm isn't researcher's business and should only be handled by dedicated #scicommers. Thankfully it's a tune I hear less and less (although I don't have real data, I might just be tuning it out 🙉)
So why do I think it is important for researchers to get involved in #scicomm? Let's go for a list in no particular order.

Also please jump in and add more reasons, and add #CitizenResearchers so that they can be easily found
I'll start not so much with why it is important, but a statement (thanks Carl Sagan) :
“Not explaining science seems to me perverse. When you're in love, you want to tell the world.”
There is a moral case that research funded by the public should be conveyed back in an intelligible way.
The financial/guilty reason: "scientists, do outreach or your science dies"
The colleague reason: doing #scicomm is a pretty good way to get better at communicating science in general. It might not be a bad thing to improve the quality of scientific conference's presentations😅
By the way, good resource for that:
howtogiveatalk.com by @David_L_Stern
The politics reason: we want our public policies to be based on facts. For certain topics, the wealth of evidence clearly points to decisions with a better outcome for the population in general than others.
the politics reason 2: we want citizen in general to have access to information to be able to make educated choices
the selfish reason: there are indications that scientific papers with more social media presence get more readers
arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/pape… and reference herein
the fun reason: it is good for researchers to have fun, and #scicomm is fun
the #fakenews reason: in a post truth era, it is important that the difference between opinions and facts does not get any blurrier. Research and scientific reasoning are powerful conceptual tools to distinguish beliefs and knowledge.
Most of the previous reasons for researcher's engagement in #scicomm are based on the idea that researchers are bringing positive value to society in the #scicomm interaction. Let's not forget the opposite is also very true and important.
Getting a fresh look on topics from a lay audience can for example be very useful. Also, the public is not necessarily a lay audience. It can also be a very well-versed public, bringing skills and knowledge that are not in labs or papers.
I'm thinking about the example of HIV research and the collaboration with patient associations for example.
S2/ Let's pretend it's still Tuesday and go to the second topic: researchers and #scicomm skills, what is important to know when engaging the public?
I was surprised, as a researcher switching to professional #scicomm, to discover a certain distrust btw researchers and prof. #scicommers:
Researchers questioning the prof. #scicommers' content expertise, and prof. #scicommers questioning the researcher's communication expertise
It can be understood when you think about it: prof. #scicommers are much less experts than researchers when it comes to a specific topic, and the opposite is true when it goes down to researcher's capacity of conveying an understable message.
In the best of all worlds, #scicommers would all have both deep communication & content expertise, or #scicomm actions would be built experts of each field. Reality check though.
To me however, prof. #scicommers and researchers don't need to be opposed. They're very complementary
It happens a lot though that #scicomm happens without both parties being involved, or is done by people having much more one kind of expertise than the other. I'll focus on the researchers side.
Let's start by the obvious: doing poor #scicomm can have exactly the opposite effect of what is intended. A conference can be boring, but a researcher focusing on facts and stats can just reinforce the other's person view (and misconceptions).
Good read:
Luckily, science can help when it comes to #scicomm!
There is no magic wand for anything, even in #scicomm sadly, I guess it's common wisdom, but it's always useful to state it. There is still a lot which is unknown, but there are things that are quite clear.
#scicomm MUST READ, by @thenasem :
One major thing that research has shown and which is not well known by researchers in #scicomm: giving more scientific evidence does NOT change citizen attitude on contentious issues (GMOs, vaccines, climate change etc...)
Basically, it helps when trying to change people's mind to understand how people's mind is formed. Big news, a lot of attitudes are built based on values and beliefs. And people trust most people with mirroring values.
So empathy is KEY in #scicomm.

People can already have the scientific information, understand it, and decide to not act consistently with it for diverse reasons. #scicomm focusing only on the scientific information is then doomed to fail.
and when I say people, I don't mean "other people who are stupid/ignorant/deranged". I mean humans. We all make decisions that are not the best rational decisions.
So to keep in mind: "if scientists want to have their views heard in public debate, they need to understand and use the tools that are available and appropriate for communicating effectively with different audiences" @scheufele #scicomm
Practically speaking, a couple of things to keep in mind:
- know your audience
- identify your goal (change minds? amaze? get a concept understood?)
- build common ground if you want to be trusted
- seek feedback to know if you achieved your goal to get better
To sum up, the idea that a knowledge deficit is the primary reason for a lack of support for sound scientific views is called the deficit model.
Idea widely shared among researchers... but plain wrong.
Practical way to get away from it at a personal level:
Now, I spent a a while talking about how researchers lack scientific culture when it comes to #scicomm. Yet, I do still think that it is very important for researchers to get involved in it.
No, I'm not schizophrenic.
#scicomm isn't only about contentious scientific issues, & changing people's mind is not the only reason to do #scicomm. Depending on the goal, it is thus not so much an issue to be blind about the deficit model and still do #scicomm. Ha!
It all comes down to the goal, as usual.
S3/ If we want to foster researcher's engagement in #scicomm, it is useful to try to better understand what motivates or discourages them from doing it to try finding solutions.
Interesting numbers:
🚀10% of researchers are responsible for 50% of all researchers #scicomm
🚀20% account for 70% of the total.

Note: real numbers are probably even more striking, as those stats are based on participants to our #scicomm actions @cerclefser
But researchers are willing to do #scicomm in general, so how come about 55% of them don't?

Again, @pablojensenlyon's article 👇(only for @cnrs staff, but we find the same rate in our actions which include all kind of academics, from PhD students to PIs, technicians,...)
We (@cerclefser) asked 600 scientists who did a Declics action (be at a neighboring high school for 3 hours, nothing to prepare in advance), what was preventing them from doing more #scicomm:
1 lack of time (79%)
2 not knowing who to contact (53%)
3 not being asked (46%)
Reasons that were less picked:
- not a priority (24%)
- not feeling training enough (33%)
- not feeling legitimate to do it (18%)
One main point is thus: don't hesitate to ask scientists to contribute to #scicomm, they'll very likely say yes!
Also, do you have advice for scientists who would be interested in doing #scicomm and take part to an action, but don't know where to start? Please list your country.
I'll start by a few I know that are English speaking: #skypeascientist, @plantingscience, @ScienceBuddies
In 🇫🇷, obviously Declics @CercleFSER 😅, @ArbreDC, @savantures, @pintofscienceFR, @FeteScience, @NuitChercheurs, Science Academie @parismontagne, @TousChercheurs, ASTEP @Fondation_Lamap
We started assembling a list, since it's not easy to find this info:
By the way for at least a couple @pintofscience, tickets will be on sale starting April 9th, so don't miss the date, they usually sell fast!
Here for the French teaser @pintofscienceFR
I'll finish this (way too long) thread on researchers' engagement in #scicomm by saying that I welcome any ideas to foster it, as I recently joined a think-tank @Leplusimp and we have a group working on recommendations exactly on this topic. 🚀🚀
For questions, I'm around @HeloiseDufour. Feedback and comments most welcome!

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