As science moves away from simply being created and isolated in laboratories, there is a need for all members of society to play a larger role in both the creation and influence of science and research. This requires that non-specialist audiences understand what is being done, said and researched by scientists. However, scientific publications are difficult to read and understand. Some publications are not accessible to the public or are hidden away in very specialised journals.
This has the unfortunate effect that it makes the public come to the conclusion that knowledge about science is not essential or worthwhile, “it’s for someone else to know”. Between scholarly science articles and false scientific knowledge to be found on the internet, the OpenUp project has revolutionized the way scholarly artefacts are evaluated, published and assessed and will engage with all stakeholders via a series of outreach and training events, and the creation of an Open Information Hub, a collaborative web based Knowledge Base that will host a catalogue of open tools/services, methodologies, best practices from various disciplines or settings, success stories, reports.
Having heard about our expertise in Scientific Communication and Dissemination strategies, the OpenUp consortium partners invited our CEO, Camille, to an interview to explain the role of Sparks & Co and how its expertise is valuable to open up science and science access to the broad public. Her contribution will help in the formation of guidelines that will be produced later in the project.
To make the most out of this new connection, we asked Michela Vignoli, a scientist at the Digital Safety & Security centre in the Austrian Institute of Technology and a member of the OpenUp project some questions about the project and about science communication:
1. Please tell us about the OpenUp project.
OpenUP is a Coordination and Support Action funded by the European Union. We focus on key aspects and challenges of the currently transforming science landscape and are looking into novel approaches of peer review, dissemination, and impact measurement. Our goal is to come up with recommendations for researchers and policy makers on how to support and promote a more open science. We just launched the first beta version of the OpenUP Hub, an open, dynamic and collaborative knowledge environment that already collects some information relevant to the review-dissemination-assessment phases of the research lifecycle. The Hub is still under development and will grow further during the next two years. Another main activity right now is the 1st international Open Science conference called Open Science Fair that we are co-organising. The conference will take place on 6-8 September in Athens. Registration to the conference is still open for a few days!
2. Why do you think Open Science and science communication are so important today?
Science is currently undergoing some fundamental changes, not at last due to the possibilities that the internet is offering us. Dissemination has become much more than presenting the results of your research to your peers at conferences or in scientific publications. Researchers can start presenting and promoting their activities and interim results much earlier in the research process – sometimes even before the actual project starts. Via blog posts and messages in social media channels or also in online videos you can communicate to your peers in a rather quick and powerful way. Also it is becoming more and more important to communicate your results not only to your peers, but also to broader audiences. To be successful at this it is necessary to adopt a new way of communicating your research for it to be understandable and useful for the targeted audiences.
3. Why have you decided to contact science communication professionals? And why Sparks & Co?
In context of our research on current dissemination practices we are collecting know-how and lessons learned on reaching audiences beyond the research community with research content. The goal is to produce guidelines and tips for researchers on how to plan their dissemination strategy to reach target audiences from the business sector and the general public. At first we wanted to talk to representatives from the targeted audiences themselves to find out what their requirements and expectations towards science communication are. However, this proved to be more difficult than expected, so we had the idea to gather this knowledge from the people who are already experienced with reaching out for these target audiences. Already in the beginning of the project we collected information about science communication professionals, and that is also when we came across Sparks & Co.
4. What are the next steps after interviewing these science communication professionals?
As a next step we will consolidate the key information gathered in the interviews and produce a first version of guidelines for communicating research outcomes to businesses and the general public. We will then test these guidelines in one of the OpenUP pilot studies, in which we collaborate with a smart city project. The goal is to validate the applicability of the guidelines in practice and to improve them based on the lessons learned from the pilot. In a final step we will propose communication standards for achieving the expected impact and a list of required skills that will help defining a newly emerging role of open science communication. This role description will support e.g. research organisations in planning and adapting resource and personnel management to the emerging science communication needs for targeting stakeholders beyond the research community.
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