Building bridges in SciComm – PCST 2023 in Rotterdam



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VA hit the ground running at the PCST conference in Rotterdam 11–14 April. Giving insight talks on ongoing projects, presenting results from recent studies, hosting workshops and participating in panel discussions, VA played its part in making PCST 2023 one of the largest scicomm events yet!

PCST (Public Communication of Science and Technology) is a global network and a biannual conference for academics and practitioners within science communication. After going all-digital in 2021 due to the Covid-19-pandemic, organisers and participants were eager to meet in person again this year, resulting in almost 700 participants from 55 countries coming to Rotterdam and the De Doelen conference centre.

PCST 2023 was brimming with energy and new ideas. VA’s four representatives Cissi Askwall, Gustav Bohlin, David Borgström and Lena Söderström came away inspired and ready to turn insights into action. The breadth in terms of topics and approaches reflects a growing field, full of creative and knowledgeable practitioners and researchers. 

The fast-paced programme included rap-songs about inclusive science engagement, visual presentations on climate science, interactive workshops on the impact of communication, panel discussions on ethics, truth and (un)certainty, and hundreds of presentations on a myriad of topics – from citizen science to performance art as a tool for public engagement.

Insights and takeaways

The VA team kept busy and participated as presenters and hosts in no less than eight different sessions. David Borgström, Project and Communications Manager at VA, gave insight talks on both CitizAir and Tea Tales, two co-creation projects where researchers, stakeholders and engagement specialists are collaborating with groups of citizens to develop digital tools for visualizing air pollution (CitizAir) and for assessing soil health (Tea Tales).

“It is hard to pick just one takeaway, but I really enjoyed a session on Citizen Science and its benefits and risks. How do you involve citizens in research without exploiting them as free labour, and what should count as actual science in the citizen science-space?” said David Borgström.

David Borgström, VA presenting the CitizAir project at PCST 2023.

Lena Söderström, Project manager and Press officer at VA, gave a well-received insight talk on Borrow A Researcher, a popular ForskarFredag activity in which schools and organisations are invited to book researchers for visits. Lena also co-hosted a session in which participants got to play a game developed in the EU-project TechEthos aimed at capturing societal attitudes and concerns towards emerging technologies. Participants learned from VA’s experiences of engaging the public through science cafés and workshops.

“I enjoyed meeting old and new friends and learned about exciting projects from around the world. A session I found particularly interesting was a roundtable discussion about how journalists can play an important part in creating deeper and more meaningful interactions between scientists and communities, with examples from South Africa, Australia and Turkey”, said Lena Söderström.

Lena Söderström presenting Borrow A Researcher at PCST 2023.

The PCST conference is a great opportunity to connect with the international community and share experiences and learnings across national and cultural contexts.

Gustav Bohlin, VA

Old friends, new ideas

Gustav Bohlin, researcher and Assistant Secretary General at VA, took part in a session on trust in science and gave a presentation on VA’s study about public perceptions of research in the humanities. He also presented results from the VA Barometer on public attitudes to science and experiences of becoming involved in research.

“The PCST conference is a great opportunity to connect with the international community and share experiences and learnings across national and cultural contexts. Apart from numerous interesting sessions, for me one of the most valuable parts of the conference is meeting old and new acquaintances within our field”, said Gustav Bohlin.

VA’s assistant secretary general Gustav Bohlin discussing the public perceptions of research at PCST 2023.

VA’s Secretary General and President of EUSEA Cissi Askwall, chaired a workshop co-organised by VA and EUSEA, where participants discussed and shared their top tips and perceived challenges related to public engagement. Cissi also took part in a panel on how to create common ground between international networks, during the closing plenary session.

“I brought home a lot of new insights, quite a few new contacts, and many ideas we might develop into new VA activities and studies”, said Cissi Askwall.

Foto: Cissi Askwall
Cissi Askwall chaired a workshop on trends in Public Engagement co-organised by VA and EUSEA.


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