Public Value of Science

Highlights from two initiatives ‘Unlocking Science’ multimedia hub and ‘Talk Back Better’ webinar series

Public Value of Science

Unlocking Science campaign

The ISC-BBC StoryWorks multimedia hub launched in 2021, ‘Unlocking Science’, finished on a high note in November 2022, with record levels of engagement for BBC global audiences.

The series told stories that demonstrated the transformative power of scientific innovation and progress. Each episode showcased evidence-based actions towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and featured dynamic protagonists to support innovative and engaging storytelling.

The ISC played a critical role by identifying impactful, solution-oriented science stories and innovations that allowed the BBC to produce compelling content, providing selected initiatives with sizable promotion and raising awareness around important topics. The ISC also used the films to create pop-up cinemas at major international forums, such as the EuroScience Open Forum in Leiden, the Ethnografilm Festival in Paris and the World Science Forum in Cape Town, in partnership with ISC Member, the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD).

Our most watched film from ISC Affiliated Member, OWSD

Throughout 2022 and 14 months after its launch, the hub proved immensely successful. ‘Unlocking Science’ outperformed the industry average for audience engagement and delivered some of the highest metrics of BBC StoryWorks, with over 83 million impressions on the BBC website. The ISC’s film related to the COVID-19 flagship report, The ‘clocks’ COVID-19 set ticking’, alone generated 1 million impressions and close to 300,000 engagements on social media. The four-part podcast series ‘Unlocking Science’ produced as part of the project, had close to 13,000 listeners.

The quality of engagement was also particularly striking, as visitors lingered longer, viewing more than they typically do on other BBC webpages. When assessing the impact of such campaigns, one industry measurement is the ‘click-through rate’ – the percentage of viewers who see the story and click through to engage. The ISC had a click-through rate three times the average number of link clicks. This data indicates that the science-engaged audience, typical of the ISC base, were drawn to the format. It also underlines science and technology as one of the fastest-growing themes in terms of audience appetite, leading to considerations for a renewal of the experience with other major media outlets.

Beyond the successful partnership with BBC StoryWorks, through this project the ISC and its Members gained access to additional key partners in the sphere of the public value of science, such as the Wikimedia Foundation, the Robert Bosch Stiftung, Google, the Network for the Public Communication of Science and Technology and the UNESCO Chair in Science Communication as a Public Good.

‘Talk Back Better’ webinar series

In the last few years, the ISC membership has become increasingly worried about challenges to trust in science. While global polls suggest that in most countries trust in science has increased among the public, there are still reasons to worry. Harassment of scientists has increased, and there have been several high-profile examples throughout the COVID-19 pandemic of political representatives dismissing scientific expertise.

In 2022, the Public Value of Science programme convened five webinars. The ‘Talk Back Better’ series was delivered from May to June with the objective of using a mix of discursive analysis and practical tips to help research organizations explore capacities to enable better communication. The key takeaways for the ISC from the series included the notion that digital platforms could be allies in the fight against misinformation and disinformation, and that research institutions need to be designed to better encourage trust. It was also found that climate change communication has grown more sophisticated in responding to the needs of science in getting its message across to segmented audiences, something that the ISC will take forward in its future discussion with the UN Under Secretary-General for Global Communications, Melissa Fleming.

Critically, the Programme on the Public Value of Science and its group of experts will provide counsel to the ISC for future projects relating to trust in science. A fully-fledged workstream on trust in science will be launched in 2023.

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