Science communication is key to establishing a fluid relation between scientists and society, bridging the misinformation gap and avoiding the spread of fake news. The COALESCE consortium, funded by the European Union, has published a policy brief with recommendations for how science communication can more effectively address urgent societal challenges such as climate emergency or the rapid development of artificial intelligence. The policy brief was presented in a press conference at the 2024 EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) that took place last week in Katowice, Poland.

Science For Change, together with the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, co-coordinates this European funded project, that will establish the European Competence Centre for Science Communication. During 4 years and collaboratively working with 13 partners in 8 countries, and a network of National and Regional hubs, COALESCE will ensure the effectiveness of best practices for science communication.

The uncertain and interrelated nature of urgent societal issues emphasises the importance and relevance of science communication. In an era of misinformation and polarisation, it is challenging to support constructive dialogue between different types of knowledge and expertise while maintaining trust. This COALESCE policy brief, produced by VU and SFC, summarises the outcomes from a series of interviews and topic-based workshops with multiple field-experts that investigated how science communication can contribute to navigating complex, urgent societal issues.

During the press conference, Joana Magalhães, COALESCE scientific coordinator, calls for the support the field of science communication in reaching its full potential as a mediator in science-society and science-policy interactions, as well as public discussions on science, which can strengthen the future of European democracies. In the document, the following recommendations to policymakers and science funders are addressed:

  • Nurture resilience: Support science communication as a field that nurtures resilience in navigating misinformation and establishing trustworthy relationships"
  • Facilitate constructive exchange: Support science communication as a field in facilitating constructive exchange and strengthening public discussions about science"

The policy brief addresses societal crises in four areas: 

  1. Climate emergency
  2. Water, oceans and soils
  3. Health and vaccines
  4. Artificial intelligence and digital transformation 

These topics were prioritised considering major global challenges, the European Commission’s priorities, the EU MIssions’ support in Europe’s transformation, and the role science communication can play in multiple-stakeholder interfaces to promote co-creation and citizen engagement and increase trust in science. The policy brief also highlights the differing needs of various actors in science communication, from science-communication professionals, journalists and academics to policymakers and citizens, including training and coordinated actions amongst them.

During the ESOF event, members of the COALESCE project participated in different sessions: two roundtables, the first one revolving around the topic “From pandemics to antibiotic resistance: can science communication really save the day in the face of existential threats?” and the second one, about “OpenScience practices – drivers for democracy”, where Rosa Arias, CEO and founder of Science for Change, showcased the role of citizen science in fostering citizen engagement and supporting evidence-informed policies derived from citizen-generated data

The project also organised a workshop entitled “A rapid mobilisation roadmap for science communication in times of crisis. How to fight misinformation and engender trust in science”, where Joana Magalhães presented the first version of the European Competence Centre for Science Communication  platform and  Kaelin DeLong from VU, presented the COALESCE Crisis Navigator, an interactive guide which aims to support professionals to better imagine and anticipate challenges in the onset of multiple crisis and how science communication could be rapidly mobilised. After that, the participants were invited to work in groups to share their perspectives and experiences, discussing and enriching the resource.

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