Science Communication: the Chilean way

From the end of the world, here comes the Outreach League, a network of women communicators from five Chilean Research Centers who joined efforts to collaborate in science communication inititatives. Because you can’t efectively spread the word alone, can you? We are a team of science communicator practicioners, teachers and researchers who together combine lessons learned in a decade of solo work. Our League is commited to raise the standards of the traditional exercise of science communication in our country, where efforts are usually passionate and good willed, but lack methodology, creativity and self-criticism. No one asked us, but we have strong ideas about how science outreach should be developed and where it should be headed. And although our principles respond to our local reality, they might as well ring a bell universally. These are our 10 SciComm Commandments: 

Why Bother Communicating

To create and nurture interest, entertain, raise awareness, shape opinions, promote observation and encourage critical thinking, in addition to educating and informing. And while it is vitally important to present results, we must also at the same time make the public aware of the scientific process and the people behind it, not for the purpose of delivering an irrevocable truth, but in order to understand that the world is complex and that while science may not have all the answers, it does have some important ones.

Cutting Edge Science – Outdated Outreach

Chile aspires to produce cuttingedge knowledge, yet its science communication goals are not as ambitious. Outreach still operates according to obsolete models. It is necessary to emphasize scientific experiences above and beyond the passive transmission of content, to promote interdisciplinary thinking and to show that science is also trial and error.

There is No such thing as the “General Public” 

Science communication must be inclusive, and in order to be so, it needs to recognize the existence of multiple audiences, each of them with particular needs that do not fit under the generic label of the “general public”.

Science Communication must Count for there’s No such thing as Academic Promotion

For knowledge to influence decision-making, to reach the street and the four corners of the compass, commitment is required. This commitment will not happen without clear incentives within the scientific establishment. Scientific communication must become an integral part of awarding funding for scientific research and in advancing the careers of academics.

Not Everyone is Carl Sagan

Designing and executing science communication strategies can be carried out by journalists, scientists, artists, educators or other interested professionals; however, all interested parties need the right set of skills to do so. Not everyone is a natural born communicator. Outreach is a specific branch of communication and it requires training to promote science effectively to the non-expert.

Science Communication must Count for Academic Promotion

For knowledge to influence decision-making, to reach the street and the four corners of the compass, commitment is required. This commitment will not happen without clear incentives within the scientific establishment. Scientific communication must become an integral part of awarding funding for scientific research and in advancing the careers of academics.

You are Here!

The communication of science should honor the territory, languages, flora, fauna, idiosyncrasy, imagery, and cultural elements of our country and the diverse nature of its inhabitants, new and old. We live in the south of the south, it’s no longer enough to copy the northern hemisphere: we must proudly tell the stories of science of and from this far-flung corner of the world.

An A+ for Participating?

To strengthen scientific culture, we must measure the effectiveness of communication strategies. It is not enough to develop science communication activities and products; it is also necessary to evaluate their impact and results. For this, it is crucial to establish indicators according to the specific objectives sought; the communication of science also needs science.

Outreach Does Not Survive on Air Alone

From media management to creating posters or organizing a science fair, cafe, or photography contest, everything requires funding. Research funds must include resources to cover science communication products and activities to disseminate results among the non-expert community.

Get Out of Your Lab! 

Fronting up to media demands is part of the social responsibility of researchers, and if they don’t get on with it, charismatic but ill-informed or ill-intentioned people will take their place.

Where are We Headed? 

Programs are not policies. Although Chile has a proven history of scientific outreach, state development guidelines are lacking. Chile just launched its Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation,  and we need this institution to issue a clear and long-term State policy that pulls together criteria and financing.

The Outreach League consists of: 

Luz Fariña (Andean Geothermal Center of Excellence, Millennium Nucleus for Metals Tracing) Belén Gallardo (Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity) Valeria Oppliger (Center for Applied Ecology and Sustainability ) Johanna Ortiz (Center for Sustainable Urban Design) Sofía Otero (Andean Geothermal Center of Excellence, Millennium Nucleus for Metals Tracing) Nélida Pohl (Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity)

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