Make it worthwhile for researchers to engage with society! That is what Swedish association VA (Public and Science) recommends in a new report to the Swedish Ministry of Education and Research. Engagement with society and external collaborations should be measured, assessed and taken into account when allocating research funding to universities.
“Money is a powerful motivator. That is why we want engagement and communication with society to count when research resources are divided between universities,” says Cissi Askwall, the newly appointed Secretary General of VA.
VA was commissioned by the Ministry to research how engagement with society is promoted and rewarded in other European countries. The result is an in-depth report into the situation across Europe and mapping of a range of indicators that can be used to measure engagement with society.
“But money is not everything! A change of culture within the research community is also needed. Communication and collaboration must become essential and visible aspects of a researchers’ day-to-day work,” says Heidi Armbruster-Domeyer, Project Manager at VA, who carried out the research.
Several actions are proposed to help stimulate such a change: a joint memorandum of commitment to public engagement from the major research organisations; extra investment in universities that provide strong role-models and a national prize for engagement with society.
VA studies show that there is a great lack of dialogue between researchers and the public. There are also too few interactions between researchers and key societal groups such as politicians, business leaders, teachers and journalists. Researchers themselves would like to have more contact with the wider society, but these activities are neither promoted by universities nor supported by grants.
“It is vital for Sweden’s prosperity that it continues to gain the full advantage of investment in research and that new areas of science can be used and exploited. This cannot be realised without public support. Therefore we recommend that in its next research bill, the government stresses the importance of rewarding and supporting the research community for engaging with society,” says Cissi Askwall.
The report can be downloaded here. Or please contact:
Karin Hermansson, Director of Administration and Research VA + 46 70 867 66 77, [email protected]
Cissi Askwall, Secretary General VA +46 70 26 44 74, [email protected]
VA (Public & Science) is a Swedish association which promotes dialogue and openness between society – especially young people – and researchers. The organisation works to stimulate new forms of dialogue around topics that engage people. VA also researches the relationship between science and society through opinion polls and other studies. There are over 70 members of VA including NGOs, associations, public authorities, institutes, companies, universities and individuals. For more information see www.v-a.se.