Reflexive practice – Radicalising how scientists approach communication

Reflexive practice – Radicalising how scientists approach communication

Author: Rhian Salmon – Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Jo Bailey – Victoria University of Wellington
Rebecca Priestley – Victoria University of Wellington

Te Punaha Matatini (TPM), a Centre of Research Excellence focused on Complexity, Risk and Uncertainty, is fortunate to boast some of New Zealand’s top scientist communicators in its cross-disciplinary, cross-institutional, research team. It also takes real engagement seriously – and is demonstrating this by funding a PhD scholarship specifically focused on evaluating and re-designing its approach to science communication.

TPM researchers (like many researchers) currently invest significant time and resources into science communication but have limited capacity to evaluate, peer-review, and improve these activities. This project builds on a recent paper by Salmon et al (2017), which proposes an approach to transforming public engagement by scientists through reflexive analysis of their activities. The PhD project aims to test this theory in practice.

This mixed methods research project has three parallel strands: theoretical, practical, and reflexive, and will contribute towards building a new theoretical model for public engagement by scientists. Using TPM as a case study, it will involve unpacking assumptions related to engagement activities, clear articulation of appropriate and measureable objectives, and development of integrated qualitative and quantitative methods for evaluation.

The project will take a human-centred design approach and involve engaging practising scientists (and information recipients) in reflexive journaling; interviews; focus groups and other design ethnography processes; as well as research into relevant theoretical frameworks; development of evaluation instruments; use of data analytics to identify networks and measure the propagation of outreach efforts and the development and evaluation of a new engagement activity (as a form of design research).

In addition to learning from the evaluation data itself, our goal is to see if this project leads to a more sophisticated approach (by both individuals and organisations) to science communication, and how the attitudes, objectives and practices of those involved change through the experience of being involved in this project.

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

Presentation type: Idea in progress
Theme: Science
Area of interest: Applying science communication research to practice