The problem of trust in scicomm: Transforming global science communication with adaptive management of local uncertainties

Author: Carlo Gubitosa – ULB – Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium

Co-author: David Domingo – ULB – Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium

Trust in science communication is a multidimensional issue affected by local factors and cultural identities not easy to encompass within the definition of “general public”.

To perform an exploratory study of the bond of trust linking global science to local knowledge, we consulted before and after Covid-19 pandemic one pool of experts formed by researchers/academics, journalists and scicomm practitioners based in Italy and Belgium.

A qualitative analysis of feedback provided by this pool in a series of iterative steps revealed a lack of consensus concerning social, cultural, political and environmental factors potentially increasing trust in scientific communication among lay audiences. A similar uncertainty emerged regarding risks and threats undermining trust in scicomm.

A strong consensus, not affected by the pandemic spread, was found about good practices fostering trust in scientific communication, and also about critical topics or scientific domains in which the bond of trust in science communication plays a key role. Nevertheless, a strong disagreement emerged again when asking experts to prioritize these lists of items .

These outcomes and their uncertainty, when put into dialogue with recent literature (where the “understanding of publics by science” is now considered as a resource for the “public understanding of science”) suggest an opportunity for transforming science communication practice, using an adaptive approach to the audience.

Multiple tools and techniques for audience analysis, public segmentation, strategic communication and content framing (available from literature and previous practitioners’ experience) can be combined with information on critical topics and good practices for scicomm emerging from this research.

The outcome is a set of “adaptive strategies” visually presented with the support of comics and infographics, a “toolbox” for practitioners and researchers building trust in science communication upon the knowledge of the public they want to reach and engage.

Presentation type: Visual presentation
Theme: Transformation