Universiteit Leiden

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Leiden involved in global science communication study

Launched in early March, GlobalSCAPE is an EU-funded project seeking to understand the current state of science communication globally, especially in non-western countries. Through the Department of Science Communication & Society, Leiden University is one of the main partners of the project, which will follow the daily activities of science communicators across the world for up to a year.

What are science communicators like in our world today? What is their background, what is their daily work like, and what challenges do they face in their activities, especially in non-western countries? 

These are some of the questions that set a group of institutions, among them Leiden University, to look for a more accurate picture of the global science communication landscape. Coordinated by Trinity College Dublin, the GlobalSCAPE project is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. It aims to conduct detailed, large-scale weekly surveys to get the perspectives of science communicators on their activities spanning countries across all continents. 

Blurred science communication landscape

Lead researcher Fiona Smyth, a research fellow in the School of Education at Trinity College Dublin, says the need for such a study is that existing research in the area has a disproportionate focus on the Global North. ‘In many instances, the voices – and the situations – that are recognised are the most prominent ones, and this is not an accurate representation of reality. The representation that we have of the science communication landscape right now is blurred,’ she says.


The purpose of GlobalSCAPE is to ‘cast light on overlooked aspects and contexts of science communication across the globe,’ says Pedro Russo, co-investigator of GlobalScape and assistant professor at Leiden University. 

Expectations are high. ‘We hope the project will identify barriers and disincentives, so that these can be addressed by policy and education in a much more comprehensive and effective manner,’ says Smyth. 

To achieve that, science communicators across all continents are invited to take part in ‘automated diary studies’, a sort of diary of their professional activities reflecting on what they do and how they see what they do. Participants are asked to fill these electronic diaries weekly for the next year so as to provide a clear, precise and detailed picture of what they do and the challenges they encounter.

The Leiden role

Leiden University is one of the six partner institutions carrying out GlobalSCAPE. ‘Our main responsibility at Leiden is to develop a globally relevant  training workshop for science communication professionals that will be delivered in multiple countries across the globe. This material will also be open access, so freely available for anyone to make use of,’ Jon Chase, a project scientist at the Science Communication and Society department, explains.

In regard to the year-long diary study, Chase is keen that it attracts a wide range of professional science communicators – a challenging task in itself. ‘We want to have inputs from different areas to make sure that none of the colleagues will be left out. Because there’s such a wide range of activities in science communication, some groups could be overlooked. There are people working in the press, museums, on the internet, on television, doing workshops, performance… even science magic tricks! So we want to make sure the survey is as representative of as many different science communicators as possible,’ he concludes.

With the Diary study launched in early November, science communication practitioners all over the world are invited to share their views and participate in the GlobalSCAPE research. Results are expected not only to map out global science communication but also to be a tool for improving policies in the area globally. 

For more information on GlobalSCAPE and to participate, go to the project’s website.

GlobalSCAPE is coordinated by Trinity College Dublin/The University of Dublin, and partnered by the University of Leiden, Qualia Analytics, the European Network of Science Centres and Museums (Ecsite), Springer Nature and SciDev.Net. 

Text by Meghie Rodrigues

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