Scientists involved in science communication activities Motivations, enablers and barriers
Why do scientists volunteer to be involved in the engagement of the public in science? What are the barriers that can prevent them from participating in the dialogue with society? What can be done to facilitate their participation? In this paper we present a case study of the Children University Programme at SISSA (Trieste, Italy), discussing the three years of experience and reporting the outcomes of a series of focus groups conducted with the young scientists who volunteered with the programme. Two types of motivations have arisen. The first is more personal, e.g. the desire to improve their own communication abilities or the mere curiosity for a new activity. The second is related to the perceived role of scientists in society: many volunteers feel the need to promote science and its importance in society, to have an impact on the public perception of science, and to plant the love of science in young people. After the experience, volunteers expressed the need to continue to improve their communication skills by participating in professional training courses, and agreed that science communication should become a standard part of all PhD training programmes . In order for the outreach to become more than a sporadic experience, a strong institutional commitment to promote, recruit, encourage, and support those who decide to commit is essential.
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