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Germany’s Federal Minister of Education and Science, Anja Karliczek, published a policy paper related to enhancing the dialogue between science and society. The Grundsatzpapier Wissenschaftskommunikation announced that all future research projects to be funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Science will need to entail a science communication component, to better communicate the projects, their aims and their outcomes to the public. The Ministry also wants to develop quality criteria for science communication and to measure its impact. Part of the strategy is also the promotion of civic engagement in the form of citizen science.
Germany’s learned societies in the areas of humanities, cultural and social sciences responded to the policy paper with a joint statement issued in early December. The societies welcome the new strategy, in principle. However, they also voice worries.
One of the worries is that the new importance of convincing communication strategies could lead to selection policies favouring easy-to-communicate research project proposals. The new policy might also, if applied without differentiation, lead to reduced chances of proposals from critical scientists and for research on controversial issues. The societies also point out that science produces not only new knowledge, but also new questions, doubts, uncertainties and complexities, and that this is an objective challenge for science communication. They also stress that good science communication requires a reflection on and a decision about which part of society is to be reached, with which exact messages, and for which purpose. Successful communication strategies are likely to differ very much depending on exact target group, theme and field and other factors. As a result, differentiated and made-to-measure quality need to be developed. In this effort, universities and research centres need not only be involved, but be grated a leading role, the societies demand.
BMBF (in German only)
DGSKA (in German only)