Pre-Event Keynote Talk
Scientists as public communicators in a complex media world
In his address at the 1977 Annual Meeting of the German Research Foundation (DFG), Helmut Schmidt, then German Chancellor, appealed to scientists to increase their public visibility. Obviously, they have listened to him. Surveys show that most researchers nowadays talk to journalists and engage in other public communication activities. Some like it, some accept it as a necessity, but few outright reject it. Scientists' motives are diverse. They may enjoy sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm with the public, they may consider it a duty towards the taxpayer, they may want to increase the 'broader impact' of their research, or they may expect benefits for their personal career, their projects and for social support of science more generally. For a long time, talking to journalists from newspapers, magazines, radio and TV has been the major form of public science communication. But the Internet has created many opportunities for direct and dialogic communication between scientists and the public via websites, blogs and social networks. Furthermore, science festivals, science cafés, science slams and open days have added occasions for scientists to interact with the public face-to-face. Still, the journalistic media continue to be particularly important. Based on empirical data from international surveys of life scientists, my talk will analyze scientists' involvement in public science communication, motivating and regulating influences of scientific communities and research organizations, and repercussions of scientists' increased media orientation on scientific research. It will furthermore discuss the prospects and pitfalls of interactions with the media for (young) researchers.
Hans Peter Peters is a senior researcher at the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine, section Ethics in the Neurosciences, of Forschungszentrum Jülich, and Adjunct Professor of Science Journalism at the Free University of Berlin. His research deals with the formation of public opinion on science, technology, biomedicine and the environment under the conditions of a media society. In particular, he focuses on the interdependencies of science and journalism, the medialization of science and the role of mass media in science governance. He is a member of the Scientific Committee of the International Network on Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST) and serves on the Editorial Board of Public Understanding of Science and the Editorial Advisory Board of Science Communication.