Grab a drink and talk science: How scientists adapt their talks for an informal science communication event

Grab a drink and talk science: How scientists adapt their talks for an informal science communication event

Author: Nina Vaupotic – University of Münster, Germany


  • Lukas Gierth – University of Münster, Germany
  • Friederike Hendriks – University of Münster, Germany
  • Dorothe Kienhues – University of Münster, Germany

Science communication, which has left the boundaries of formalised classroom settings is increasingly taking place at informal events. This raises the question of how scientists prepare for such dialogue, and how they adapt their communication in line with their anticipation of the audience. We investigated scientists’ approach to overcoming the barriers of communicating their highly specialised work to a public that likely possesses only limited relevant knowledge (Bromme & Goldman, 2014). While some previous studies focus on surveying attitudes and communication objectives of scientists (Dudo & Besley, 2016), we were interested in scientists’ adaptations to the expected lay audience, namely adaptations regarding theory, methods and results as well as scientific uncertainties and practical implications. Furthermore, we were interested in scientists’ reasons behind these adaptations.

The present interview study was conducted in the context of a science communication event (SCE), during which nine scientists from different disciplinary backgrounds presented their work in separate 45 minute talks. The interviews were conducted before the SCE took place to capture scientists’ prior perceptions and planning of the anticipated communication. A qualitative content analysis (Mayring, 2010) was used to develop a coding scheme of scientists’ communication adaptations for the lay audience. Almost all scientists mentioned adaptations such as reducing information regarding methods, focusing on the main results or using simplified language. These were motivated by time constraints or an anticipated lack of knowledge and interest of the audience. While some scientists mentioned wanting to foster an active role of the public in judging their research, a few others completely refrained from explaining the methods and scientific uncertainties underlying their research. We discuss these results from the perspective of scientists’ disciplinary backgrounds and their understanding of science, as well as provide implications for scientists who adapt their public communication when speaking to a lay audience.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Insight talk
Theme: Transformation