Research communication is a moveable feast and as varied as the media and communication channels used to reach an intended audience. This annual review pulls out eleven posts focusing on different aspects of research communication that have been featured on the LSE Impact Blog in 2022.
Misinformation has been a prominent paradigm in the explanation of social, political, and more recently epidemiological phenomena since the middle of the last decade. However, Daniel Williams argues that a focus on misinformation is limiting when used to explain these phenomena. Primarily, as it distracts us from more important ways in which information can be misleading, and it overlooks the social dynamics of competition involved in information marketplaces that produce effective rationalisations of the favoured narratives of different social groups.
In recent years, a new wave of climate activist groups, such as Extinction Rebellion, Fridays for Future and the Sunrise Movement have reshaped public debates on climate action. In so doing they refer to scientific evidence. But, how exactly do they understand science’s relationship to society? Drawing on documentary evidence, Simone Rödder argues that the use of evidence by these groups, especially the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), reflects an effective form of science communication, albeit one that leaves hierarchies of scientific knowledge largely intact.
Research communication can often seem like a monolith, if you want to take your research beyond the walls of the university then do x-y-z. As Andy Tattersall describes, there are in fact many hands and styles of work that contribute to effective research communications. Outlining four styles of research communication he suggests knowing how to navigate these processes is essential to developing and experienced researchers.
Current images of AI – widely used and available in stock libraries – are dominated by tropes such as white humanoid robots, blue backgrounds, glowing brains and science fiction imagery. Research into narratives as forms of sense-making AI has shown that these can impede the public understanding of AI, mask human agency, and reinforce damaging stereotypes. Dr Jenn Chubb and AI policy researcher Raziye Buse Çetin, appointed advisors to the Better Images of AI project, make the case to imagine more helpful visual representations of AI to improve science communication.
If you have read any research produced by universities, civil society organisations or think tanks, you will most likely have struggled to find any good jokes. However, throughout history, humour has played an important role in critiquing society and raising social issues to a popular audience. Drawing on a recent example of using humour to explain the complex political and economic crisis in Sri Lanka, Chalani Ranwala suggests that this often overlooked medium can, when used well, provide timely research based information to broader publics.
Poetry can be perceived as the antithesis of science, indicative of a non-rational mode of thought, and famously banished from Plato’s ideal republic. However, as a form of communication poetry presents a unique way of engaging audiences and empowering them to think about complex issues. In this post, Sam Illingworth, reflects on his journey from atmospheric physics to communicating scientific research through poetry and how this different register is a valuable form of research communication.
Podcasts have become an established part of university communications and public engagement activities. Reflecting on the development of the medium and the creation of the ‘Isolation Pod’ podcast during the first COVID-19 lockdown in the UK, Mark Carrigan makes the case for the wider use of podcasts by academics in a lo-fi fashion, where increasingly high production standards are eschewed for more direct and focused audio engagements.
It would be difficult to develop new ideas if everyone you associated with was hostile to them. The varying degrees of safety provided by the exclusion of people and ideas opposed to certain forms of knowledge is thus an often unacknowledged part of knowledge work. However, whilst this can be benign, it can also lead to the creation of entrenched and extreme positions impervious to outside influences, a state Katherine Furman introduces in this post as the epistemic bunker.
Rigorous empirical evidence is often presumed to be the most persuasive, notably in fields such as healthcare and medicine, where there are established frameworks for assessing the quality of evidence. In this post, Eivind Engebretsen and Mona Baker argue for the importance of narrative rationality, especially in areas where expertise is contested. Drawing on work from their recently published book and taking the COVID-19 pandemic as an exemplary case, they point to how the narrative structure and context of evidence are closely related to how knowledge is communicated and adopted by different audiences.
Data and its visualizers have always exploited the latest trends in media and communication in its quest to make seemingly dull numbers engaging, affective and interesting. In this post Kalina Borkiewicz, Eric Jensen, Stuart Levy, Jill .P. Naiman, and Jeff Carpenter discuss the emerging concept of cinematic scientific visualization. Locating it between traditional scientific visualization and illustration, they explore how the aesthetics of cinema can be used to highlight different aspects of scientific research and how this in turn can create more compelling visualizations.
The personal blog was a defining feature of the early internet and there are still a number of high-profile academic blogs studiously maintained by lone scholars. However, for researchers new to academic blogging, is it still worth setting up your own blog? Reflecting on his own blogging trajectory Mark Carrigan, suggests that it may be time to lay the personal academic blog to rest.
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