Levels of public trust in science remain relatively high. But the political and media environment is increasingly fragmented and polarized, this has been highlighted with the diverse responses of governments and populations to the COVID-19 pandemic. This trend is exacerbated by pervasive digital technologies and social media, which enable the widespread dissemination of misleading and biased information.
At the heart of this we see trust in science is contested and fragile.
This in turn feeds new expressions of science denialism, casts doubt on the need for scientific understanding and interpretation, and threatens evidence-informed decision-making. This problem affects all scientific fields, all types of research, and all scientific communities around the world. It is naturally of great concern, as our future health and survival depend on the adoption of policies that have a sound scientific basis.
The ISC and its affiliates are committed to maximizing the impact of evidence informed science on policy. To achieve this we need to interrogate our understanding of how perceptions of science inform policy and, in turn, enable institutions to support the emerging learning.
This work should allow ISC and member institutions to maximize the strategic value of the increased media interest in science which the COVID pandemic has afforded us.
There will be an Expert Panel of 12 researchers, commentators and scientists who have made a significant contribution to the discourse on scientific literacy or whose work is well positioned to make a contribution to understanding public perceptions of science. They will be engaged as resource people for the programme.
The programme will have three broad streams:
- Understanding Scientific Engagement
- Enabling Scientific Engagement
- Extending Scientific Engagement
Increased awareness amongst wider publics, policymakers and decision-makers of science as a global public good.
1. Understanding Scientific Engagement
This workstream will seek to clarify the concepts commonly used around scientific literacy, science education and perceptions of science, to describe the theoretical framing and empirical evidence underpinning the assumptions behind them. It will also examine the links between policy and scientific literacy based on the latest research.
🟡 Publication of an Occasional Paper on ISC and Global Scientific Engagement with questions for ISC deliberation reflecting on the programmatic approach and strategic focus of work. Released in June.
🟡 Publication of a Report on the current body of research on scientific engagement and global perceptions of science. This overview of concepts and evidence will pose questions for the STEM sector in view of climate denialism and vaccine hesitancy.
🟡 Establishment of the Expert Panel in August-September 2021
🟡 A series of podcasts with the Expert Panel as part of ISC Presents
2. Enabling Scientific Engagement
This workstream is designed to support the ISC membership to respond to the challenges facing science engagement and those perceptions of science which undermine evidence based policy, international collaboration and, ultimately, science for sustainability.
The programme will seek to respond to the threats scientists face from ‘fringe’ groups, scientific nationalism, conspiracy theorists and populism.
🟡 Online convening in October/November of the year to address- STEM training for science communication, best practice for media engagement and general resource building for scientific institutions.
🟡 Design a campaign that showcases progressive practice amongst membership for International Year of Scientific Engagement 2025 (including mobilizing their support for the associated UN recognition)
3. Extending Scientific Engagement (including BBC Storyworks and Global Science TV)
The scientific community has an obligation to explain and champion the role of science in all decisions that affect society. This workstream articulates the partnerships ISC is developing with media to engage publics in the value of science. It is designed to draw on the work of the other workstreams -in due course – to maximize the impact of the outreach and ensure that the ISC and its constituency can demonstrate the credibility to strategically engage with the media.
BBC Storyworks Partnership
The ISC’s members will have a critical role to play in developing the storylines for the series by identifying impactful, solutions-oriented science that will allow the BBC StoryWorks team to create compelling content that activates emotions, whilst delivering the key messages that advance public understanding of scientific research and practice, fortifying levels of public trust in science.
The series will aim to tell diverse stories from across a range of disciplines and research approaches that demonstrate the transformative power of scientific innovation and progress. Each story should showcase evidence-based actions towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals or demonstrate how lessons learned from the pandemic can be applied to other critical global challenges. Stories will also showcase the ways in which communities engage with science and innovation to deliver transformation, from practical solutions to shaping our understanding of the problem.
✅ The partnership was launched in March 2021 and is expected to debut its first digital output in October 2021.
✅ A scoping group meeting was held in late April 2021. The focus of the scoping meeting was to mobilize ISC Members as champions of the public value of science, and assist the production team in understanding how individual scientific expertise might shape the content of the series.
✅ ISC Members, affiliated bodies and partners were invited to submit story ideas by 30 April 2021 for the partnership.
🟡 BBC Storyworks, working in partnership with the ISC and members, will start production of stories from July 2021.
🟡 The ISC/BBC hub on bbc.com will be launched in the final quarter of 2021. The platform will feature a collection of stories reflecting the contribution science is making to global transformations and sustainability.
Global Science TV
The scientific community has an obligation to explain and champion the role of science in all decisions that affect society. Even when the science is complex and contradicts popularly held ideas, it can help in framing the issues, explaining complexity and proposing possible options.
Merely repeating scientific results and opinions, either more clearly or more loudly, is not the way to success. Instead, direct engagement is needed with those outside the scientific community, and a deeper understanding of how people receive and respond to messages, both individually and collectively. More information
✅ Mobilizing the knowledge and resources of the ISC’s scientific community, and in partnership with the Australian Academy of Science, the ISC launched the new web-based show accessible to a global public audience in April 2020. Global Science TV aims to share scientific expertise directly from experts themselves, while educating, entertaining and informing viewers on major issues of scientific relevance.
🟡 The ISC will look at how to sustain Global Science TV, including considering new funding sources and broader partnerships.
🟡 Global Science TV currently has a Digital Oversight Committee based in Australia that will be expanded to include nominees from the International Science Council membership.
General Contact for Public Value of Science
Contact for Global Science TV