The public value of science

This body of work aims to increase awareness amongst wider publics, policymakers and decision-makers of science as a global public good.

The public value of science

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.


An Expert Panel consists 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.

Special advisor to the project:


The programme will have three broad streams:

  1. Understanding Scientific Engagement – Sign up to be the first to receive the new discussion paper on insights around trust in sciecne, to be released in July 2023.
  2. Enabling Scientific Engagement
  3. Extending Scientific Engagement

Anticipated Impact

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.

Key milestones

✅ ISC has published an Occasional Paper exploring the current body of research on public engagement and global perceptions of science. This overview of concepts, evidence and debates poses questions for the research sector in view of climate denialism and vaccine hesitancy.

Next steps

🟡 The ISC is producing a discussion paper on the implications for science engagement from understanding trust, science and publics. The report will be used to animate a discussion about what these insights around trust mean for the voice of/for science (e.g. in the digital space, through pandemics and, reforms in academic publishing.)This report will articulate for a policy audience the potential and value of science communication for:

  • Understanding and engaging with various publics on scientific issues;
  • Advising on policies to combat the increasing mis – and disinformation on social media platforms and various news and information networks;
  • Providing robust frameworks to interpret, mediate and explain the best available scientific knowledge and advice with policy options and recommendations;
  • Identifying public perceptions of scientific endeavour and how these link to social outcomes;
  • Facilitating cocreation of integrative knowledge and design of solutions across multiple stakeholders and sectoral interests (important for achieving the transformative aspirations of the Sustainable Development Goals).

The discussion paper aims to be released in July 2023.

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.

Key milestones

✅ Watch the panel hosted by the programme as part of the Berlin Science Week, Unlocking Science: Prioritizing Institutional Responses to the Distrust in Science.

✅ A series of webinars were held through May and June 2022 to showcase effective institutional responses to enhanced public engagement with science.

✅ New webinars in the Talk Back Better Series will took place in February and March 2023 with partners such as the Wikimedia Foundation and Global Development Network, on the topics of knowledge integrity on platforms and the challenges and opportunities for scientific engagement with media partnerships:

  • 30 March |13:00 – 14:15 UTC: Building Special Projects on Wikipedia Responses to the COVID pandemic and exploring strategies for research communication and content moderation in the current polarized environment

Next Steps

🟡The ISC is reviewing the evolution of this part of the project.

3. Extending Scientific Engagement

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

🥇This project has now been completed and the ISC continues its outreach to ensure impact.

The ISC’s members played a critical role in developing the storylines for the series by identifying impactful, solutions-oriented science that allowed the BBC StoryWorks team to create compelling content.

The series aims 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 showcases evidence-based actions towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals or demonstrates how lessons learned from the pandemic can be applied to other critical global challenges. Stories 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

Key Milestones

✅ 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.

✅ Explore the multimedia hub ‘Unlocking Science

Global Science TV

🥇This project has now been completed and the ISC continues its outreach to ensure impact.

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

Key Milestones

✅ 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.

✅ Global Science TV has had more than 200,000 views across its various social networks and has a growing following on Follow Global Science TV on TwitterFacebook and Youtube.

General Contact for Public Value of Science

Contact for Global Science TV

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