The Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences has published a first comprehensive assessment report on science communication in Switzerland, made by a group of 16 experts, among which USI professor Suzanne Suggs. The report also offers 20 recommendations for improving science communication and public engagement in Switzerland.
The (ongoing) COVID-19 pandemic has generated considerable demand for information and interaction between science and society, with on the one hand decision-makers and stakeholders calling for reliable scientific assessments of the situation and, on the other, citizens turning to news outlets and social media for information. In this scenario, science communication plays a crucial role, yet it sometimes appears inadequate.
The report published by the Swiss Academies, Science in the Swiss Public: The State of Science Communication and Public Engagement with Science in Switzerland , highlights the positive elements of Science communication, as well as the challenges that require attention. Among the positive aspects of the Swiss situation, the experts observe a strong public support for science and the wide range of formats that are available for science-society dialogue. "A number of studies we’ve analysed show, for example, that the Swiss population perceives science positively and that trust in science is widespread", says L. Suzanne Suggs, Full professor of Social Marketing at the USI Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society and co-speaker of the expert group.
Despite the general strong public support for science, the experts observe that a small but notable part of the Swiss population is disengaged from science. Among the challenges in science communication that require attention, the report indicates the insufficient support for researchers who communicate with the public, the erosion of science journalism, and disand misinformation in social media. Science journalism in the country is facing significant challenges, and many science journalists work under non-optimal conditions. Also, many scientists themselves refrain from public communication because they lack training and do not feel supported by the scientific system, especially during crises. Finally, the report underlines that digital platforms have become important sources of information about science, especially for younger people, but that they can facilitate misand disinformation.
The group of 16 experts - social scientists researching science communication, computer scientists, scientists from publicly visible disciplines like climate science, professional science communicators, and science journalists - also issued 20 recommendations. Essentially, the group’s recommendations indicate that communication between science and politics should be mainstreamed, that science journalism needs to be supported, and that more research into science communication is necessary. For society at large, science communication should not be one-way communication, but a dialog, and scientists should try to understand the perspectives of the public.
"Above all, it’s important to have an exchange with society: that people understand science, but that they can also participate in it. It’s not a one-way street: scientists learn just as much from non-scientists as vice versa. That’s how we make science relevant for everyone", adds Prof. Suggs.
The report is available in English, Italian, French and German at >> https://api.swiss-academies.ch/site/assets/files/34739/sciencesart_layout_a5_booklet_einzeln.pdf