New VA study: Swedish researchers positive towards science communication

Swedish researchers view science communication as important but a lack of time and rewards remain the largest obstacles. The term ‘open science’ is relatively unknown but mostly associated with open access. These are some of the findings of a study conducted by the Swedish civil society organisation VA (Public & Science) together with the Swedish Research Council.

The context for the study is a growing focus on open science, communication and societal engagement in recent years, both with Sweden and at an EU level, and a lack of knowledge about Swedish researchers’ views on these. Open science is a key pillar of the European Commission’s open innovation research policy. In 2016, all the European Union member states also agreed to transition to an open science system.

The study consisted of in-depth interviews with researchers at Swedish universities as well as communications professionals working at public research funding bodies and universities. The aim was to update and deepen existing knowledge of Swedish researchers’ views on science communication, their motivations and conditions for undertaking it, as well as their knowledge of, and attitudes towards, open science.

The results of the study show that:

  • Two obstacles to engaging in science communication, which have been identified in previous studies and still remain, are:
    • A lack of time
    • Science communication is not rewarded or valued sufficiently, particularly when evaluating funding applications.
  • Researchers feel that colleagues positively support their efforts to communicate outside of academia.
  • Researchers consider science communication to be important, primarily for democratic reasons. However, they generally do not expect the public to provide constructive feedback on their research.
  • Several researchers expressed a wish to broaden science communication to encompass the nature of science, such as the research process and similarities between disciplines, and not just focus on outcomes and applications. In previous studies conducted by VA, this is something that the public has also expressed an interest in.
  • Open science is not a well-known concept among the interviewed researchers. Most associate the word with open access to research articles.
  • Almost all of the researchers are positive towards a system of open data but highlight a number of issues, such as:
    • Openness does not necessarily mean accessibility.
    • In order for open data to be credible, transparent data collection and analytical methods are also required.
    • A functional infrastructure for working efficiently with open data doesn’t currently exist.
  • Researchers rarely use social media for science communication and are skeptical of altmetrics (alternative ways of measuring the impact of research).

For further information regarding the study, please contact Martin Bergman or Gustav Bohlin.

The full report is available in Swedish only.


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