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Author: Kaisu Koivumäki – University of Oulu, Finland

There are varying reasons behind researchers’ motivation to participate in science communication: traditional duty to disseminate knowledge, deliberating engagement goals, and visibility demands from institutions and research funders that are intensifying globally. Mediatization entails the belief that visibility promotes societal support and competitiveness. But what kind of effect these demands have on researchers’ science communication efforts?

This paper presents preliminary findings of an analysis on data collected in summer 2017 with semi-structured interviews of 17 researchers and 13 science communication professionals. Preliminary findings indicate that researchers’ attitudes are changing and researchers feel pressure/duty to participate in science communication. For many interviewees reason for this was the research funders. Typical belief was that funders implicitly value visibility. The belief seemed to gain strength from visibility-hype connected to social media. The common narrative was: “For funding issues it’s very important to have good image of your work and existence in social media”. When faced with a question of this kind of motivation towards science communication being just self-serving, many interviewees stated the competitive structures of academia but also claimed to approve funders’ ultimate goal to foster dialog with science and society.

Preliminary findings incorporate important notion: the researchers share the belief that funders value visibility whether this is known fact or not, and are willing to act accordingly. The findings seem to relate to the blurred concepts of communication, engagement and impact online, and the continual lack of solid, evaluation instrument of (digital) impact as part of research assessments. The parties don’t exactly know the gain.

Further findings will be presented and discussed from the viewpoint of conceptualisations of science communication distributed globally by institutions and funders. Important aspects of discussion addresses the communication practitioners’ encouragement of researchers’ science communication efforts: the beliefs about funders’ understanding of science communication foster motivation and action.

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

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Science
Area of interest: Applying science communication research to practice