Communicating Science - How?

COSTECH came to Stockholm from Tanzania to exchange best practices on how to work with science communication

It is tempting to think that good research communicates itself, that if it is important enough the interest will be automatic. This is not quite the case, and given the amount of information available for most persons at any given point the situation for research communicators is more challenging than that.

The Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) recently came to Stockholm on a study visit to learn from Swedish institutions how they communicate science and what strategies are used to engage with an audience. Between 28th January and 1st February 2019, COSTECH had the opportunity to meet with Swedish communications specialists in several organisations who shared their experiences in making research results visible to the public in a number of ways.

COSTECH met the Swedish Research Council, who graciously shared their strategy on how the council communicates science using different channels of communication. The organisations have similar responsibilities distributing research grants so a similar situation with the responsibility to communicate the research being done with those grants.

The group made a study visit to Swedish Television (the Swedish public service TV-broadcaster), with a visit to the science desk and a tour of the newsroom and studios. SVT works with the changing broadcasting landscapes in several ways with live streaming television and play on demand to complement the traditional broadcasting. This is important to reach viewers that do not have television sets or watch TV in the conventional way. Science communication needs to work in a similar way. 

Sessions with Stockholm university covered a wide range of topics: from discussing the use of social media outlets, blogs, newsletters or Wikis to communicate research to hands-on experiences recording podcasts, creating accounts to make the recordings publicly available and working with videography.

At the end of the week COSTECH noted that their interpretation of events and press releases had benefitted from this visit and they would redress their approach and communication strategy as a take away from the week of events. The visit also helped to appreciate the important role of university science communicators and how establishing strong partnerships with these colleagues will strengthen COSTECH’s research communication. 

These are some things for science communicators to consider when communicating research:

  • Make research projects visible. Work with researchers to encourage and train them to communicate their research to non-academic audiences. Visibility may lead to additional funding interest.
  • Engage with the public. Both for public accountability and for public engagement with science.
  • Remain Objective: avoid biases and remain truthful in the communication process
  • Manage Public Reaction. Communicate research results with care to avoid confusion or causing public distress.
  • Communicate with Policy Makers. Decision makers should have access to research findings informing their policy decisions.
  • Ensure inclusivity. A diverse and inclusive scientific team is an important part of objectivity.
  • Show Commitment to the Public. Many questions raised by society can and should be answered through science.

Thanks to all the organisations and persons that SPIDER and COSTECH got to meet during this week for generously giving of your time and sharing experiences and knowledge in a very welcoming way. It was greatly appreciated and will be of benefit both to COSTECH, Tanzanian researchers and the people of Tanzania.

Group of persons in the middle of a TV newsroom. Big screens above heads showing images of news broadcasts. Desks and computers in the background.

In the SVT newsroom    Photo: Caroline Wamala Larsson

Meeting the Swedish Research Council    Photo: Caroline Wamala Larsson

AV workshop in the DSV studio    Photo: Caroline Wamala Larsson

Visiting the radio studio at Stockholm University    Photo: Caroline Wamala Larsson