Are you planning a science communication event? A new best practice manual provides advice on key elements to make your event successful, attract new audiences, identify topics, and define content and structure. Evaluation methodology and checklists are also included.
The manual has been produced as part of ComScience – a European project that evaluated new forms of dialogue and communication on the topic of public health research. The project tested various forms of two-way dialogue between scientists and the public, the use of films, hands-on activities and other materials as well as different target audiences.
As one of five European partners with expertise in science communication, VA (Public & Science) ran a series of events in Sweden as part of the project. Similar events were held in Great Britain, Belgium, German and Spain and all were closely evaluated to identify best practice that could be shared with science communicators across Europe.
Findings from the project included:
- Three interrelated factors should dictate the selection of issues for discussion: the main topics of interest, stakeholder needs and the overall mission of the organising body.
- There is no such target group as the general public. Stakeholders should be broken down into groups, for example, by their level of interest in science, socio-demographic characteristics or place of residence to help you identify their needs and target them more effectively.
- What young people and adults consider to be important content differs. Although all event participants wanted to know how science is affecting their daily lives, the adults placed more emphasis on understanding how science actually works and valued the interaction with scientists, whereas young people showed more interest in its abstract implications and emotional content. The young people responded particularly well to the films and all participants valued handouts.
- More should be done to address issues of uncertainty and risk in science communication events and as a result increase public understanding of science methodology and the process of scientific discovery.
*Institute of Communication and Media Research, LMU, München, Germany
**Visions Unlimited Medien GmbH, München, Germany
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