What is science communication?

Science communication is communication about research with those outside of the scientific community.

  • Scholarly communication is about communication within academia/between researchers, while
  • Science communication describes communication about research with those outside of the scientific community.
Illustration: Lotta W Tomasson/VA CC BY-NC 2.0

Science communication can be undertaken with various degrees of interaction:

  • Information: Characterised by one-way communication aimed at a passive recipient, for example, press releases or popular science articles and lectures.
  • Dialogue: Characterised by all parties having a role as both senders and receivers. Both researchers and the general public have an opportunity to speak and take an active interest in each other’s views. (In cases where there is an opportunity for two-way communication, but where only one party is active e.g. blogs with a comment function that is unused, it is known as pseudo-dialogue.)
  • Co-creation: Characterised by two-way communication, whereby all parties not only have an opportunity to express their views but are also given influence in the research process. This can be anything from identifying ethical barriers or new research topics, to helping with data collection or being involved in communicating and using research findings.
Illustration: Lotta W Tomasson/VA CC BY-NC 2.0

How does VA work with science communication?

VA runs and is involved in many projects that promote science communication:

  • ARCS – citizen science for all
    – developing a Swedish web portal for citizen science, which is a form of co-creation.
  • EU-Citizen.Science
    – developing a European platform for citizen science (see above).
  • Researchers’ views on science communication and open science
    – a survey of Swedish researchers’ views on communication and open science. In the study, we investigated both researchers’ attitudes and the activities they undertake, as well as the obstacles they experience when communicating their research in 2019.
  • Research on science communication in Sweden – a comprehensive mapping
    – On behalf of the Swedish Research Council, VA conducted a comprehensive mapping of existing research conducted on science communication in Sweden 2020. (Available in Swedish only)
  • ForskarFredag – Researchers’ Night in Sweden
    – The last Friday in September has been declared European Researchers’ Night by the European Commission. Events are organised annually in over 370 cities throughout Europe. Known as ForskarFredag in Sweden, the science festival ​​creates opportunities for dialogue and meetings between researchers and the general public to highlight what science is about, how research is conducted, and that research is exciting and relevant to our everyday lives.
  • Researchers’ Night mass experiment
    – Since 2009 VA has run an annual citizen science project, as part of the ForskarFredag science festival, in which the public and school classes across Sweden are invited to participate in real research.
  • Researchers’ Grand Prix
    – Sweden’s largest science communication competition for researchers. Participating researchers are coached in how to present their research in just four minutes in front of an expert jury and public audience, who together decide the winner.
  • Forum for Science Communication
    – This annual conference, run in connection to the international Gothenburg Science Festival since 2013, creates a meeting place and network for those working in the field of science communication. VA is a co-organiser. (Most info in Swedish)
  • SciCommToolbox.se
    – An online resource providing inspiration and suggestions formats for science communication activities for use by organisations undertaking public engagement activity. It is available in both English and Swedish.
  • Media seminars for researchers
    – A series of seminars in which researchers, journalists and university press officers shared experiences and tips with other researchers. The seminars were run from 2013–2016 by the VA together with the research councils Formas, Forte, the Swedish Research Council and Vinnova, in collaboration with universities across Sweden.
    – an EU project in which VA is a partner. RETHINK aims to overcome the challenges that digitalisation presents for science communication and to create meaningful and long-term change in the field.
  • Public engagement advocacy work
    – VA seeks to ensure that researchers are rewarded for undertaking public engagement and that it is recognised as an important part of a researcher’s work. We aim to strengthen all aspects of engagement with society; democratic, cultural, as well as for the benefit and education of society. An important part of our work is running seminars and workshops on public engagement. (Most info in Swedish)
  • Science Café
    – A Science Café is a meeting place for anyone who is curious about research. Over a drink, researchers and the public together discuss a current issue or new findings of interest. Science cafés are run in many countries around the world and VA disseminates knowledge about the concept as well as other formats for researcher dialogues.

Related terms

Public Outreach, Public Engagement, Public Involvement

Science communication is “forskningskommunikation” in Swedish and Public Engagement is non existing in the Swedish language but can in some cases be translated as ”samverkan”.

Further information

Relevant social media hashtags:
#scicomm, #SciCommunication and #ScienceCommunication