On 23 June 2022, the closing convention of Rewarded! took place. During this interactive afternoon, results of the project were discussed and we worked on concrete recommendations for future-proof science communication with the more than 100 attendees.
‘We also have to tell the big story about how science works’ said Minister of Education, Culture and Science Robbert Dijkgraaf, when he announced that he would reserve one million a year for the next ten years, for a national centre for science communication. An investment, ‘so that all those people working on science communication in the Netherlands can start working together more’.
In the context of Science Communication by Scientists: Rewarded! scientists, communication professionals and administrators came together to think about that big story: what is needed to give science communication a full place within academia? How can scientists who work on science communication be better appreciated and supported within their working environment? Attendees reflected on the results of the past year and gathered new input for the guide on this theme, which will be presented to Dutch universities, research institutes and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science in October 2022.
Ward Peeters, Anne Land-Zandstra and Madelijn Strick of IMPACTLAB kicked off the first part of the programme, called In Practice, with insights from impact measurements of various science communication activities. The comprehensive research by Frank Kupper, Anna Aris, Sem Barendse and Willemine Willems (Athena Institute, VU) was next on the program. The bottlenecks and challenges scientists experience when engaging with science communication were highlighted by Kupper in personified form: using the experiences of fictional scientist ‘Zeus’.
Afterwards, interactive group sessions – also developed by the Athena Institute’s research group – followed. Attendees worked attentively and enthusiastically on practical recommendations for knowledge institutions and the Ministry of OCW. Groups were divided into the themes of priority, continuity and identity.
From these and previous sessions, it appeared that there is a great need for dialogue. Not only between science and society, but also within one’s own organisation and the world of science and science communication itself. Structural financial and practical support is also needed, in addition to an overarching science communication strategy from knowledge institutions and umbrella organisations. Other recommendations included a redefinition and diversification of national UFO profiles and implementation of the Recognition & Rewards policy so that there is (more) space for researchers committed to science communication.
Conditions and bottlenecks
The second part of the afternoon centered around creating conditions. Expressing his wishes and recently announced plans to take some of the pressure off scientists’ workload, the minister ended his video message by asking: ‘How do you think the national centre can contribute to facilitating and valuing scientists who work on science communication?’
‘What I find especially important is that you have entrances into society, that you know exactly how to reach groups from society that you want to reach, how to actually reach them with your communication.’ Kathleen Ferrier (Unesco NL president and Open Science advocate)
A panel discussion led by Peter-Paul Verbeek (University of Twente) discussed the opportunities and bottlenecks that communication about science can bring, with a special focus on young researchers. Panellists Kathleen Ferrier (Unesco), Jeroen Geurts (rector VU Amsterdam) and researchers Erik van Sebille (Utrecht University) and Andrea Evers (Leiden University) agreed that the right structures need to be put in place at the administrative level in order to create the conditions in which science communication can develop further. The panel was very positive about the national science communication centre: it not only carries an important message about the importance of science communication in general, but can also contribute to professionalisation and further embedding of the profession in the scientific landscape and beyond.
Want to know more?
You can watch a recording of the afternoon via the KNAW’s YouTube channel.