Communicating Science: Bridging the research practice divide

Emma Louisa Caroline Weitkamp - United Kingdom

Dr Emma Weitkamp is Editor in Chief of JCOM, an open access journal dedicated to bridging the gap between research and practice in science communication. Emma is also co-Director of the Science Communication Unit at the University of the West of England, Bristol where she leads research and practical projects focusing on communicating environmental issues. Emma also teachings on UWE’s MSc in Science Communication and postgraduate diploma in Applied Science Communication. Emma’s Emma’s research interests explore the intersections between science journalism, public relations and policy and her portfolio of activities bridges both practical science communication projects and research. Current research projects are exploring the role of public relations practitioners in shaping science news and the role. Through her recent collaborative Sci-Arts projects, Emma is also exploring collaborative practices and learning in interdisciplinary teams. Emma is co-author of Creative Research Communication (Manchester University Press), a book exploring new and emerging approaches to engaging people with research, placing these in the wider context of research communication.

Session introduction

This session will explore the drivers for research communication within universities and research institutes. The session will also consider the challenges and opportunities offered by the changing science communication landscape encouraging participants to consider how these influence their own practice.

Session in-depth

This talk will explore the challenges of bridging the gap between theory and practice in research communication, drawing on examples from my experience of research and practice in environmental communication and published work from JCOM. After first painting a picture of the broad science communication landscape, Emma will draw on participants experiences to explore the drivers and challenges faced by those working in communications roles within Universities and research institutions. The talk will then move on to consider what we know of the barriers and opportunities faced by those within University/Research Institution settings from a theoretical/research perspective. Participants will be challenged to consider how these theoretical positions fit (or don’t fit) to their own experiences of research communication. The session will then move on to explore the challenges and opportunities offered by the changing digital landscape in which science communication sits, drawing on the latest findings from the RETHINK project (funded through Horizon 2020) in which Emma is involved. Finally, the session will consider opportunities and barriers participants face in drawing on research in science communication to inform their practice.

Key objectives for the session:

  • to explore the drivers for science communication within universities and research institutes
  • To consider the opportunities and challenges arising from the changing digital landscape.
  • To enable participants to reflect on their own experience and identify specific challenges and/or opportunities they face in relation to public engagement with research
  • To consider the ways in which participants draw on science communication research to inform their practice (and how this information could be better shared with them)