What is Science Communication?

What is Science Communication? Science Communication has been increasingly gaining attention in the past few years, but many people are still not sure what it means. That’s not surprising, as there seems to be a bit of a disconnect when it comes to a definition of what Science Communication is. So I would like to take a moment to reflect on what I believe Science Communication really means, and what I am talking about when I’m talking about SciComm.

Some people seem to automatically connect Science Communication to STEM disciplines – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. They talk about SciComm as if it’s exclusively about communicating STEM to a broader audience. But is it? Is SciComm about communicating STEM topics?

Science and Communication are two very big, broad words. I don’t want to push them into such a restricted definition. So let’s look at them individually, and then put it back together, shall we?

Communication and Science

Let’s start with the “action word” in this phrase. Communication. Communication comes from the Latin word communicare, which means “to share”. Communication is all about sharing information. Communicating is about divulging some sort of information, including concepts and ideas, from one person to another (or group of people), through whatever medium is understood by both parties.

Awesome. One down, one to go.

Now, what are we trying to communicate? Science. Science comes from the Latin word scientia, which means “knowledge”. That’s where things start to get a bit muddy, isn’t it? Is any type of knowledge considered science? The UK Science Council has a good definition of science. They defines science as “the pursuit and application of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence.” Interesting. So science is knowledge based on research, then?

Well, I would say I agree.

So, finally, what is Science Communication?

Science communication is about communicating knowledgeScience communication is about communicating knowledge to your audience so you can educate, raise awareness, and incite change.

SciComm can take up many formats, including (but not limited to!) lectures, presentations, posters, news or journal articles, and posts on blogs or social media – basically anything an academic can do to communicate their knowledge.

While most academics have been formally trained in some of these formats, such as giving lectures or writing academic articles, the majority has not been trained in how to talk to non-specialised audiences, and the tools you might want to use for this. And that’s what the SciCommLab is all about.

The SciCommLab is a space where you can experiment with new ways to communicate your research and your knowledge, so your message can create the impact that it deserves.

But… why do we automatically think about STEM when we are talking about SciComm?

Don’t get me wrong – I am not trying to attack STEM scholars. I think STEM is extremely important! Additionally, STEM topics are often considered too complicated and STEM disciplines would very much benefit from better communication. I’m just saying that’s not all of science – science and knowledge is bigger than STEM. Much like society, academia can benefit from being inclusive, and part of that is also not discriminating against disciplines.

So I’m an advocate that SciComm is for all academic disciplines, research and science.


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