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The road ahead: Upcoming milestones of the QUEST project

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The road ahead: Upcoming milestones of the QUEST project

The first half of 2020 was a busy period for QUEST. A variety of research activities took place during this time (you can read about our first findings here), and we released our 12 quality indicators for science communication. Furthermore, in the unexpected and unfortunate context of Covid-19, we also examined how the pandemic is impacting the field of science communication – see a roundup of our Covid-19 coverage here.

We are now preparing for the next phase of the project, as several handbooks, toolkits and other outputs are set to be released later this year. Read on to learn about our plans for the second half of 2020.

INQUEST – support tool for journalists writing about science

The QUEST partner City, University of London is leading the development of INQUEST, an AI-powered tool that helps journalists report about science more effectively. We presented the tool’s main features in an earlier blog post, and a functioning prototype of INQUEST will be ready by the end of the summer.

We engaged with science communication professionals through a co-design process, which was very helpful in refining the tool. Many testers flagged INQUEST’s “personas” especially useful: the feature includes a range of audience personalities that typically engage little with science-related content. The list of personas represents different types of readers, and helps journalists create articles that match the interests and life situations of different audience types.

INQUEST also includes a listing of metaphors that can be used to communicate complicated scientific topics. A well-known example is “the greenhouse effect”, which explains temperature increases by comparing the Earth’s atmosphere to a pane of glass that traps the heat inside. 70 metaphors will be included in INQUEST, encouraging journalists to think creatively about their use of metaphors and guiding them in choosing the right metaphor for their topic.

Examples of the metaphors included in INQUEST.Examples of the metaphors included in INQUEST.

A paper about INQUEST has been accepted to NordiCHI’2020, and journalists will be able to experiment with a functioning version of the tool after the summer. Interested in testing INQUEST and contributing to its development? Get in touch!

Curriculum for science journalism

In addition to supporting working journalists and journalism students with the INQUEST tool, the QUEST project also takes stock of and aims to support the teaching of science journalism. We have conducted a mapping of science communication training opportunities in Europe (read about this research here), and are now creating a curriculum for science journalism.

The work, also lead by City, University of London, will develop two modules: one on reporting stories involving statistics and data and another on reading, interpreting and presenting scientific papers and research. Additional modules and other potential content are currently being discussed.

The curriculum is set to be released in the autumn, and will draw from the same research and resources that are used to create the journalism toolkit (more on this below), as well as incorporating the INQUEST digital research tool.

Best practices on social media

As for researching and supporting the communication of science on social media, the QUEST project started a social media experiment in March, inviting a group of science communication experts to join and try different tips and hints as part of their social media activities.

Led by the QUEST partner Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, the experiment has produced a database on how European science communication professionals make practical use of social media in communicating science topics. We will use this resource to draw together learnings and lessons and will release a summary report about the main findings in the autumn.

Initial results from the social media experiment.Initial results from the social media experiment.

Handbook for museums

In order to support the science communication in museums, the QUEST partner Trinity College Dublin / Science Gallery Dublin is leading the work on the creation of a handbook that focuses on science communication in museums, galleries and other public institutions.

Science communicators working in such organisations are often expected to communicate their work in an academic context, but do not necessarily have the required experience or expertise. Moreover, the expectations regarding style and form of the content can be different from what they are used to when working in a museum environment.

To address this issue, the handbook will include a brief history of academic writing in museums and galleries, a “how-to” guide for setting up an academic writing group, presentation of peer review and reflective practices, a description on the publishing process, and best practice examples.

Toolkits for scientists, journalists, social media professionals and museums

A major part of the QUEST project is the series of toolkits that we are developing to support different types of science communication professionals.

For scientists, the QUEST project leader Venice International University will create a toolkit using learnings from a series of interviews with science communication trainers and online focus groups with scientists working on Artificial Intelligence, Climate Change and Vaccines.

The interviews highlighted key elements of effective trainings, such as the need to adapt science communication training based on the profiles and needs of the trained scientists as well as the importance to combine theory and practice for teaching how to improve science communication. They also provided key tips for scientists when they communicate, starting from defining the key message that they wish to deliver and the need to target the audience.

We also identified some of the obstacles that scientists are often faced with when communicating with the public, ranging from lack of time and insufficient training to the challenge of communicating a complex message without oversimplifying it. Based on these outputs, the upcoming toolkit will provide tips for scientists to help them maximise the impact and quality of their science communication activities.

The social media toolkit, developed by Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, will be somewhat different from the other toolkits in that it focuses on a specific medium rather than being tailored to one type of science communication professional. It will therefore include advice for experts from various fields – from scholars and scientists to journalists and social media managers.

The toolkit for museums will focus specifically on the topic of diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI). It will give explainers on related concepts and examine barriers of representation – ranging from disabilities and health issues to economic and social obstacles – in order to better understand and depict underrepresentation in museums.

There is a well-documented lack of diversity in science museums, galleries and other informal learning spaces, both in terms of attendees and the contents of exhibitions. Moreover, there is increasing evidence that many exhibits for children are not gender-neutral but created to attract and retain boys’ attention more than girls.

Using the co-design approach Trinity College Dublin / Science Gallery Dublin aims to collect the views of science communicators on how they could engage the public in a more equitable way, and will probe them on how they account for DEI in their audience engagement activities.

Finally, we are preparing a toolkit for journalists, aimed at general working journalists and journalism students intending to cover topics related to science. The toolkit will provide advice on handling statistics and interpreting and reporting research findings accurately. It will also provide journalists with resources to help understand data visualisations as well as explaining common scientific concepts.

Developed by City, University of London, the journalists toolkit will draw from and build on existing resources, such as the Science in the Newsroom project, in addition to creating original content. Moreover, episodes from the upcoming QUEST podcast series will relate closely to the toolkit’s topics – more on the podcast below.

 Examples of the resources from Science in the Newsroom project.Examples of the resources from Science in the Newsroom project.

Policy recommendations

The QUEST project will also look at the role of policies in either supporting or hindering science communication. The work is underway on analysing practices and identifying recommendations for policies or measures that improve the framework conditions for science communication activities, improving the exchange between scientists, scientific institutions, museums, science journalists and the wider public.

Drawing from desk analysis and interviews with science communication professionals, a QUEST team led by APRE will identify best practices and policy recommendations – at a country and EU level – that help in promoting quality science communication.

Podcast and events

Building on the different QUEST outputs, City, University of London will oversee the production of a QUEST podcast. This will include six episodes, each addressing a different topic and complementing the handbooks and toolkits described above.

Finally, while the Covid-19 crisis has disrupted events around the world, we aim to be present at relevant conferences when travel restrictions ease and events start to take place again. For example, our panel was accepted for the next PCST, however the event has been postponed until 2021.

The circumstances keep changing across Europe, but we continue to monitor the most promising opportunities to represent QUEST at live and online events.

Do you have questions about our plans for the rest of 2020, or are you interested in contributing? Get in touch.

This article was originally published by QUEST - QUality and Effectiveness in Science and Technology communication, one of WAN-IFRA's projects funded by the EU's Horizon 2020 programme. Interested to learn more? Head over to the project website.

(Photo by Holden Baxter on Unsplash)


Teemu Henriksson's picture

Teemu Henriksson


2020-09-22 15:32

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