The success of your scientific career is not only dependent on your scientific excellence and the research area you are working in, it also needs engagement in communication.
WHY IS ERA CoBioTech PROMOTING COMMUNICATION OF RESEARCHERS WITH THE PUBLIC?
by Kim Turk, MIZŠ (Slovenia), WP “Communication, exploitation and dissemination of results”
Communication is a task that requires knowledge, skills and tools which are frequently not in the standard portfolio of scientific education. Thus ERA CoBioTech decided to support its research community in its efforts to communicate for impact. From a funding organization’s perspective dissemination, communication and stakeholder interaction activities are important as they contribute to the impact of a funded project. While dissemination focuses on the production of scientific papers, posters and presentations at closed scientific conferences and work with specialized stakeholder groups, communication entails the efforts put in informing and engaging a wider public, making them aware of the issues specific research addresses, the questions it poses, the methods it uses, and the outcomes it anticipates[i]. Usually communication activities mean a step out of a scientist’s comfort zone as such activities are not often embedded into Science Curricula, measured or rewarded, rarely appreciated by seniors and entail concern of public backlash. However, with 53% of EU citizens interested in scientific research results and 58% not feeling informed about the developments in science and technology[ii], explaining how research is beneficial to everyone’s life is of extreme importance. Why[iii]? Because everyone is a citizen, whether President, Member of Parliament, policy maker, teacher, student, entrepreneur or industrialist. Effective communication raises awareness of the research conducted and of the researchers working on it to mutual advantage, potentially laying ground for further funding and support. Furthermore, European taxpayers providing funding for research are interested in knowing what the money is invested in and what the value of the investment is. Communicating the relevance of research and its potential outcomes to society and our everyday lives helps to ensure that innovations are accepted not opposed, utilized not ignored, thus paving the way also for the uptake of results and unlocking market potential of the research conducted.
Understanding how public perception works is especially important when communicating research in emerging and often misunderstood fields, such as synthetic biology, systems biology and industrial biotechnology, which pose many questions in the general public. With the media creating hype by highlighting potential applications without highlighting major challenges of bringing the products to the market, misunderstandings many times result in reactions to applications and organisms that do not even exist (think George Church’s Neanderthal baby[iv]).
ERA CoBioTech is taking communication for impact very seriously[v]. Therefore, we wish to ensure that our funded projects make the best use of the results they generate, by having as many groups in society know about the excellent work conducted and its potential results. These can in turn be more easily taken up by decision-makers in policy, industry or science itself, thus creating impact. Following ERA CoBioTech’s message, “Supporting you in making your research a success”, ERA CoBioTech partnered up with the H2020 funded project CommBeBiz to support all our funded proposals in their efforts to communicate with a wider public. We provide opportunities to learn through webinars and workshops on developing a Dissemination and Communication plan and a communication toolbox. Additionally ERA CoBioTech will make an effort to promote the funded projects and their results through its own communication channels, including the website, status seminars, the Biotech Hub, relevant events where we are present, and the communication material we will produce during the duration of our project.
[i] ERA CoBioTech (2016) Joint call for proposals: Biotechnology for a sustainable bioeconomy. (https://goo.gl/x1oEu6)
[ii] Euopean Commission (2013) Special Eurobarometer 401: Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), Science and Technology. (https://goo.gl/e7aCCx)
ERA CoBioTech (2016) Joint call for proposals: Biotechnology for a sustainable bioeconomy. (https://goo.gl/x1oEu6)
[iv] Smith, Rebbecca (2013) 'I can create Neanderthal baby, I just need willing woman'. The Telegraph, 20.1. (https://goo.gl/XdqogQ)
[v] ERA CoBioTech (2016) Joint call for proposals: Biotechnology for a sustainable bioeconomy. (https://goo.gl/x1oEu6)