On the 16th of November I attended a policy conference marking the end of two European projects, CASI (Public participation in developing a common framework for assessment and management of sustainable innovation) and PE2020 (Public Engagement Innovations for Horizon 2020).
This conference had the aim to share both projects’ findings and to engage in a fruitful discussion with professionals from the public engagement field. The 2-day agenda was filled with very interesting topics such as “What is innovative Public Engagement and why is it needed?” by Mikko Rask (University of Helsinki) or “Living lab of global change research” by Tanja Suni (Future Earth Finland).
Public engagement as part of Responsible Research and Innovation scheme
My primary interest was to attend the conference in the light of our Responsible Research and Innovation project, STARBIOS2, focusing on RRI standards in the Biosciences. The project started back in May 2016, and is now in the implementation phase of 6 action plans across Europe (2 international plans will also be developed in the USA and Brazil). I wanted to meet with public engagement professionals to better understand the actual importance of science communication in public engagement initiatives. Indeed, Sparks & Co will support our partners in STARBIOS2 to develop their plans towards creating better public engagement with science in their research institutions.
Could science communication support public engagement?
My favourite talk was given by Luciano D’Andrea from the Laboratory of Citizenship Sciences in Rome (also a STARBIOS2 partner through Fabio Feudo and his team). He discussed the results of the PE2020 projects, with regards to actionable measures to support public engagement in research and innovation activities. I particularly liked one of his findings:
— Sparks & Co (@sparksandco) 16 novembre 2016
As our team is responsible for communication strategies for 4 Horizon 2020 projects, we have to build efficient methodologies and tools to communicate to a wide range of stakeholders, including the public at large. But it wasn’t up until we started working for STARBIOS2 that we started questioning how could science communication help in the public engagement process. Of course, before you can invite people to engage into your research, you need to be able to communicate effectively what your work is about. In this sense, clear communication materials are a must: a quick video highlighting your contribution to society or a flyer showing how you intend to solve a pressing issue will make all the difference. This is exactly why science communication is necessary to public engagement. Good communication about your research goals and outputs will allow you to empower people, only from which can stem true engagement.
Mr. D’Andrea specified the limitations of science communication within the public engagement process in pointing out how public engagement was actually aiming to achieve much more than just passing information. It requires active and subsequent engagement of society in research. I encourage you to check out the PE2020 website regularly as they will share the videos of the talks soon and have other interesting content about public engagement with science.
Public engagement is of the 5 pillars of RRI and a very important topic for Horizon 2020 projects. Fortunately, here at Sparks & Co we have a team of expert communicators to support you in achieving public engagement; online community building, efficient communication materials and more! If you are interested in our services, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and keep an eye on our blogs for more interesting information and helpful tips on numerous different subjects!