SwafS is the acronym for Science with and for Society. This is a programme within Horizon 2020 that aims to:
allow(s) all societal actors (researchers, citizens, policy makers, business, third sector organisations etc.) to work together during the whole research and innovation process in order to better align both the process and its outcomes with the values, needs and expectations of European society. This approach to research and innovation is called Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI).
European Commission SwafS description
It is a programme that is even more necessary than ever to help science today integrate with society. Getting all societal actors involved in research from the very start takes science away from just the academics and industry and puts it in the hands of everyone. Here at Sparks & Co we work on SwafS projects a lot. The need for communication in a SwafS project is even more pronounced than for other, more research-focused projects. This is why Emma Buchet and Joy Cremesty decided to discuss why your communication strategy is so important for SwafS projects. They will both bring a different point of view, the proposal stage and the implementation stage.
I work on a lot of SwafS proposals and they’re some of the most interesting to work on! They are really aiming to do something new to science and get everyone involved in a feasible and realistic way. To put it politically, they are aiming to “democratise” science.
The communication strategy for a SwafS project is so important because it is involving research in society, how can the projects achieve this if no-one knows how to interact with this research? When I create communication strategies for SwafS projects I try to think out of the box. Citizen science initiatives, Open Science and Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) are areas of science that are often misunderstood or difficult to implement. The aid to implementing these is through communication. Citizens need to be aware of how to reach the initiatives that they can benefit from and give benefit to, scientists need to know how to reach out to the public and researchers need to be educated about why RRI is important.
I recently attended the SwafS brokerage event and information day in Brussels. Many of the projects described there has an additional emphasis on dissemination, showing that the European Commission is really taking it as a serious part of SwafS. When writing the communication and dissemination strategy, I make sure that there is an emphasis on social media and events. Communication here takes the stage as “democratising” science means allowing the people to really engage with the project. I try to avoid falling into the same traps as other projects might, such as implementing an unneeded platform or not budgeting enough to do something really fun with your communication!
I’m currently working on 3 SwafS projects: I-Consent, Starbios2 and FIT4RRI covering different theme around “science with and for society”. The communication strategy varies according to the objectives of the project but I always try to set tactical strategies to promote the project as a research responding to the needs and benefits of the society.
For FIT4RRI and I-Consent, we’re still in the early phases of both projects. The communication activities were various from creating the project visual identity, to developing the website, developing and feeding the blog page, designing and printing the basic communication materials (leaflet, roll-up and poster). These materials played a major role in the dissemination of the project by the partners in events and it has also created a good exposure online! These two projects deal with large issues in SwafS: Open Science and Informed Consent (respectively), thus the communication of these projects is an incredibly important part.
A project with some more examples would be Starbios2. It is a project aiming to implement the Responsible Research and Innovation-RRI approach in research institutions specifically in Biosciences through Action Plans.
However, the RRI concept is still novel and is not well recognised in the research community. Therefore, we have decided to create an online engagement strategy to mobilise several existing communities around the concept of RRI and to maximise the impact of the RRI guidelines that will be published in 4 years. We’ve been online on Twitter from the beginning of the project and lately have created the project Facebook page. This online presence has increased the project awareness and sensitised the community around the concept of RRI and its main issues in biosciences.
It has pushed the community to have discussions and exchange their practices online. Moreover, the project’s partners were involved in writing weekly blog posts in an interview format about the RRI key issues in biosciences and the practices they have in their institutions. This has also increased the project awareness as well as the engagement of the community with the RRI key issues.
How important is communication in your SwafS project? Don’t forget that for any communication troubles you have in your SwafS projects, our experts here at Sparks & Co are ready to help! Send us a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org for all your SwafS communication needs!
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