Public Attitudes and Trust in Europe – Analysing Country Level Differences

PERITIA invites researchers, policymakers, and media representatives to the presentation of results from survey data on public attitudes towards national governments, science, and media across six European countries: Germany, the UK, Ireland, Poland, Italy, and Norway.

The Future of Science Communication Conference: Bringing Science Communicators and Researchers Together

ALLEA and Wissenschaft im Dialog hosted the second Future of Science Communication Conference (FSCC 2.0) in Brussels, which was attended by academics, policymakers, and practitioners to learn from renowned experts in the burgeoning field.

On 26 April, academics, policymakers, and practitioners gathered for the second Future of Science Communication Conference (FSCC 2.0), co-organised by ALLEA and Wissenschaft im Dialog, the organisation for science communication in Germany and funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, in Brussels to discuss the latest ideas and questions on how to effectively communicate science in the age of social media and the increased access to information and knowledge, no longer mediated by experts in Academia and the Media.

FSCC 2.0 was designed as a follow-up event to the Future of Science Communication Conference that was held virtually in June 2021 and attended by over 1,000 participants. It brought together the science communication community in Europe to discuss relevant topics such as communicating science in the presence of uncertainty, dealing with disinformation, creating open dialogue with the public, and developing institutions and structures for a strategic (re-)orientation of Science Communication in Europe, among others.

Welcome remarks by Birte Fähnrich (German Federal Ministry of Education and Research) Photo© 2022 HorstWagner.eu

Welcome remarks by Birte Fähnrich from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Antonio Loprieno, President of ALLEA, and Markus Weißkopf, managing director of Wissenschaft im Dialog, were followed by three impulse talks, parallel workshops, and a final panel discussion..

Lessons from the pandemic

Virologist and head of the committee of experts advising the Belgian Government on its Covid-19 strategy, Erika Vlieghe (University of Antwerp) presented some lessons learned about effective science advice during the pandemic, and shared her insights on the future of communicating science during a crisis. “We need to ensure that science and politics remain separate; and we need to communicate the science in a way that doesn’t allow for misunderstanding or misuse,” cautioned Dr Vlieghe.

Erika Vlieghe presents lessons for science communicators from the pandemic  Photo © 2022 HorstWagner.eu

Massimiano Bucchi (University of Trento) then went on to share his insights into the (inaccurate) stereotypes of the public found in the minds and discourse of policymakers and experts, and their consequences for effective science communication. “Unfortunately, a representation of the public as hostile, sceptical, and ignorant is still widespread among policy makers and experts, supporting a paternalistic and ultimately authoritarian vision of science communication and of science in society. As the literature from the past two decades clearly shows, this representation largely reflects unfounded prejudices,” said Prof Bucchi, one of the leading scholars researching science communication and director of the International Master programme SCICOMM.

In his virtual address to the Brussels audience, Prof Bucchi called for the shift of focus from fighting misinformation and “fake news” to the “quality” of science communication; in particular how to improve, incentivise, reward, and distinguish it from low-quality, ad-hoc, and poorly focused science communication.

The final impulse talk by Uwe Steger, head of public relations at the University of Innsbruck, focused on the future challenges for science communication. Mr Steger called for the incorporation of science mediation work into curricula and the early stages of academics’ careers. Among other suggestions, Mr Steger emphasised the need for increased and systematic funding for research on and training in science communication.

Interactive Workshops

The talks sparked lively discussions and were followed by interactive workshops on four important issues: Communicating Global Challenges: Learning from COVID-Communication and Climate Change; Fake News & Disinformation and the Consequences for the Science-(Communication)-Community; Evidence-based Practice, Impact and Evaluation of SciComm; and Networks and Institutional Structures of European SciComm.

Among others, the workshops debated such questions as “How can we embed science communication within curricula to broaden the scope for the field?” “How to clarify responsibilities for science communicators?” “What is the role of transparency in effective science communication?” “Can we create a common language when discussing the “impact” and “quality” of science communication that we can share across borders?”.

Photo © 2022 HorstWagner.eu

 

Institutionalising Science Communication

FSCC 2.0 concluded with a hybrid panel discussion on “How to Institutionalise SciComm in Europe?”, which can be watched on YouTube. The panel included David Lodder, communications officer at the European Commission for Research & Innovation, Ionica Smeets, chair of Leiden University’s research group Science Communication and Society, Svetla Tanova, coordinator of the European Science Media Hub, and Markus Weißkopf. It was moderated by Maria Lindholm (Sweden’s Research and Innovation Office in Brussels),

The panel discussed issues such as future challenges for SciComm at the European level, innovative projects in the field today, the question of funding, and ideal institutional landscapes for the field and the paths to get there. Some insights from the panel are highlighted below:

  • David Lodder discussed the challenge of communicating complex ideas in a strategic way to a target audience: “I think there are three challenges – trust, strategy, and cooperation – which have to work together. The Eurobarometer survey shows that the public trusts scientists more than policymakers or journalists when it comes to science, so it is very important to empower researchers to communicate. But there needs to be strategy behind the communication. And finally, cooperation with experts in communication to know how best to reach the right audience is crucial.”
  • Markus Weißkopf reiterated the need for recognition of science communication work by the scientific community as it could be a powerful motivator for scientists to engage in this essential activity. Elaborating on how to achieve such recognition, he added that “Role models are important. Senior scientists can be influential in motivating younger peers to pursue science communication. And we can initiate prizes for science communication, but we also need to recognise science communication activities as valid work experience when hiring candidates so that it is valued as a skill.”
  • Ionica Smeets emphasised that science communication does not need to be performed by every scientist. “I think it is dangerous to talk about broadening careers and ask all scientists to do all aspects; what we see is that young researchers are very motivated to do science communication but there is very little support,” said Dr Smeets. She added that training and funding young researchers to engage in science communication would be relatively inexpensive and would have a big impact.
  • Svetla Tanova called for greater exchange of ideas and best-practices between actors, and across borders, in particular with countries and communities who are less privileged. She added that rather than the top-down imposition of standards by EU institutions, science communication conduct and convention should be built from the bottom up by the scientific community.

 

Photo © 2022 HorstWagner.eu

 

Watch the full discussion by clicking on the link below.

How to Institutionalise SciComm in Europe?

More documentation of FSCC 2.0 will be published in the coming months, including a report on the policy recommendations from the conference. If you want to receive future updates, please subscribe to the ALLEA newsletter.

Patent System Needs Adjustment to Harmonize with Open Science Objectives, European Academies say

A new ALLEA statement examines the current patent system in the context of the ideals and objectives of open science and recommends, among others, the introduction of grace periods in patent applications to make knowledge open as early as possible.

In a new statement published today, ALLEA, the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities, advocates for the harmonisation of the patent system with open science. The academies urge policymakers to introduce a grace period of at least one year to ensure rapid open publication of research findings.

In addition, the authors conclude that patent income must not be seen as a substitute for public funding and patent activity should be used with great caution as an evaluation metric in assessing the performance of research institutions, projects, and individuals.

The statement, prepared jointly by ALLEA’s Open Science Task Force (OSTF) and the Permanent Working Group Intellectual Property Rights (PWGIPR), analyses the current debate on the possible synergies and perceived tensions between open science and patent protections.

The publication explores these two apparently contradictory views on research policy. On the one hand, a utilitarian view underlines the value of research as a key pillar of innovation in modern societies, wherein patents are considered important tools to valorise research findings. At the same time, an increasingly vocal open science movement advocates for knowledge generated through research to be considered as a global common good to be shared as openly and as rapidly as possible.

The authors consider that “there is no fundamental opposition between open science and protection of IPR; ideas can be freely shared even if their commercial use is subject to restrictions, and indeed this is only possible because of patent law. However, there are clearly operational problems with the way the patent system is currently structured.”

With the right adaptations to existing patent law, knowledge valorisation does not need to prevent early sharing of research findings. On the contrary, “a reformed patent system is essential to the widespread adoption of open science, and could even incentivise it”, states Luke Drury, Chair of the ALLEA Open Science Task Force.

In its conclusions, the statement recommends:

  1. The introduction of a carefully formulated grace period of at least one year in patent applications to allow open publication prior to obtaining protection.
  2. The existing research and experimentation exceptions should be strengthened and broadly interpreted to underpin the free non-commercial use by researchers of knowledge disclosed in patents.

In addition, it notes that:

  1. While patent income and license fees may play a useful role in supplementing the budgets of public research bodies and the salaries of some individuals, this must not be seen as a substitute for public funding.
  2. Patent activity should be used with great caution as an evaluation metric in assessing the performance of research systems, bodies, and individuals. Incentivising the accumulation of non-performing patents is counterproductive and a waste of resources.
  3. The value of curiosity-driven open research in publicly funded research and education bodies needs to be better acknowledged as the bedrock on which innovation and entrepreneurial activity is built, even if it is hard to quantify and valorise.
  4. Related to the last point, the role of distributed communities and teams of researchers needs to be better recognised. The emphasis in patent law on individual inventors is unhelpful in this regard and does not properly reflect how science operates.

Read the full statement

ALLEA General Assembly 2022

The General Assembly annually convenes academies of sciences and humanities from 40 countries across the Council of Europe region. General Assemblies are hosted by ALLEA Member Academies and the programme typically consists of the internal business meeting of academy delegates, and a scientific symposium open to the public.

How to Address an Infodemic: Experiments on (Dis)Information

PERITIA – Policy, Expertise and Trust – is organising a workshop, titled, ‘How to Address an Infodemic: Experiments on (Dis)Information’. The event will bring together international experts working on experiments in disinformation, including John Cook (Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub), Anastasia Kozyreva (Max Plank Institute for Human Development, Berlin), and Myrto Pantazi (Université libre de Bruxelles, Brussels), among others, for a full-day programme in London.