Since 2006, the German Research Foundation (DFG) has explicitly demanded science communication activities in DFG funded research programs, i.e. scientists need to be aware of the importance to communicate their research to the public. There is, however, no scientific evaluation of this requirement today. I examine the status quo of Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST) in such programs with respect to the following questions: If and to what extent are scientists aware of the increasing need to get involved in science communication? How is this awareness implemented in their everyday work? Do scientists feel responsible for communicating science to the public? Which factors are important for successful PCST activities of scientists?

My approach is a qualitative empirical case study. It is a comparison of three DFG funded Collaborative Research Centers (CRCs). In this unique model of collective research around 70 scientists from different scientific disciplines are working on one topic funded for a maximum period of twelve years. The three selected CRCs belong to different fields of research with different immediate relevance to the public: cognitive science, engineering, and political science.

In my analysis, I focus on scientists as actors of the PCST process. Interviews with junior and senior researchers from different scientific disciplines working in these three CRCs show that many scientists still seem to not consider PCST activities as one of their “main duties” (which they see in doing research, publishing, obtaining research grants), but rather as a part of a scientist’s “soft skills”. But if PCST activities are established in a research group and there is a person responsible for it that has the expertise to do so, he or she can motivate his/her colleagues to take part – Irrespective of the scientific discipline.

My conclusion is that public engagement of scientists does not solely depend on their scientific discipline but rather on the scientists’ personal attitude towards PCST. It is the interplay of three factors that is important for successful and lasting public engagement of scientists: the personal attitude of the scientists, the general establishment of PCST activities in the respective research group, and – with lower impact – the scientific field.

">
 [PCST]
PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Between ivory tower and spotlight
A case study on the status quo of pcst in publicly funded research centers

Julia Gantenberg   University of Bremen

Since 2006, the German Research Foundation (DFG) has explicitly demanded science communication activities in DFG funded research programs, i.e. scientists need to be aware of the importance to communicate their research to the public. There is, however, no scientific evaluation of this requirement today. I examine the status quo of Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST) in such programs with respect to the following questions: If and to what extent are scientists aware of the increasing need to get involved in science communication? How is this awareness implemented in their everyday work? Do scientists feel responsible for communicating science to the public? Which factors are important for successful PCST activities of scientists?

My approach is a qualitative empirical case study. It is a comparison of three DFG funded Collaborative Research Centers (CRCs). In this unique model of collective research around 70 scientists from different scientific disciplines are working on one topic funded for a maximum period of twelve years. The three selected CRCs belong to different fields of research with different immediate relevance to the public: cognitive science, engineering, and political science.

In my analysis, I focus on scientists as actors of the PCST process. Interviews with junior and senior researchers from different scientific disciplines working in these three CRCs show that many scientists still seem to not consider PCST activities as one of their “main duties” (which they see in doing research, publishing, obtaining research grants), but rather as a part of a scientist’s “soft skills”. But if PCST activities are established in a research group and there is a person responsible for it that has the expertise to do so, he or she can motivate his/her colleagues to take part – Irrespective of the scientific discipline.

My conclusion is that public engagement of scientists does not solely depend on their scientific discipline but rather on the scientists’ personal attitude towards PCST. It is the interplay of three factors that is important for successful and lasting public engagement of scientists: the personal attitude of the scientists, the general establishment of PCST activities in the respective research group, and – with lower impact – the scientific field.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

BACK TO TOP