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What is your goal?

In this video we start discussing the strategy of science communication by asking you the first question: what is your goal?
Before beginning to plan your activity, there
are some questions that you should consider: what do you want to communicate? To reach which goal? With who do you want to communicate? In this video and in the next steps we will go through these questions, and by the end of the week we’ll reach the point where we have defined these important aspects of science communication. As a science communicator, your goal will likely fall near the “transmit” vertex of the public engagement triangle, a framework developed by Lindsey Coulborne. It was created to reflect the variety of goals that public engagement initiatives can have,
and that can be described by the mix of three overarching goals: to transmit, to receive or to collaborate. The “transmit” vertex contains goals such as changing the perceptions of the public, raise its awareness about something, educating them or teaching them something, shape their opinion or disseminate the results of your research. And the activities linked with this goal are the
ones you might be thinking about: participating in a scientific festival, running a website or using your social media profile, being guest on a TV or radio show, holding a public presentation and so on… Your goals might include some collaborative aspects - for instance, if you want to play a role defining the rules that govern a certain area of research, or if you want to engage in a public discussion with the other stakeholders related to your field. Besides your goal, you should consider your audience goals. What might they be? They might want to learn something, as often is the case of people that attend public lectures.
They might want to be a part of a discussion and therefore participate in a debate or a café scientifique. Or maybe they are looking for entertainment, they want to have fun. Why is understanding your audience goal important? Whatever your goal is, you are competing for attention with everything else that is in
the world: political groups, corporations and think tanks are looking for visibility and trying to gain the public hear. And of course the same is true for influencers, journalists and even other researchers and universities. For this reason, you should not expect to meet
your audience on “your side” of the street: you need to meet them halfway, or even on ♪ their♪ side of the street, and start your communication effort by meeting their goals.
Think about kids going to a science museum: they might want to learn something, but they probably also want to play and have fun with all the interactive equipment on display. Your goal probably is to teach them something, to get them curious about an area of science. So your goals could match, but it will be easier for you to hook them if you start by considering their goals, instead of yours. On the other side, if your goal was to have a discussion about your area of research, and to shift the public opinion towards your stance, you might not be in the right place.
But you could also be: while interacting with the children, you could have the chance of interacting also with parents or guardians – in this case, you would be able to reach both audiences and to connect to both. In all cases, understanding your audience’s goals is part of the next step – defining your audience in general, and getting to know it, which will be the focus of the next video.

Science communication has more than one possible goal.

Transmit information, engage, start a public debate and challenge current opinions are some of them.

It is crucial to have your goal in mind before you start your communication activities: think of the differences between an ecologist pushing for the creation of a marine reserve, like in this publication published in 2010 and the contributors to a popular science magazine.

Their actions might partly overlap, but they would also need to target different audiences!

Share with us

  • What is your goal, as a science communicator?
  • Why is it relevant now – for the audience, and for the society at large?

Share your thoughts in the comment section, and discuss them with your fellow learners!

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Science Communication and Public Engagement

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