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Science communication is at a pivotal stage in its evolution due to the emergence of digital communication platforms that are not only presenting new opportunities but are also leading to new challenges. RETHINK is creating an unprecedented view of the new science communication landscape to reveal the barriers and inequalities that stand in the way of open and reflexive connections between science and society. It will also present the way forward, encouraging evidence-based transformations in science communication practice as well as guiding relevant policy to further open Research & Innovation (R&I) to society. 

To achieve this, RETHINK has started developing a 360° view of the current science communication landscape. It has succesfully mapped current science communication activities across Europe, including those taking place in the currently uncharted digital sphere. Using the COVID 19 case, Rethink is exploring the ‘sensemaking’ practices of citizens as they seek to understand scientific developments and scientifically important challenges, particularly while using online resources. The consortium has started to carry out a comprehensive map of existing science communication training;  revealing gaps in its scope given today’s challenges and priorities and revealing science communicators, especially those on digital platforms, who are currently underserved.
To maximise its impact, RETHINK has the following defining characteristics:

  • The project is embedded within the science communication realm to ensure its practical relevance and increase the implementation of ideas and solutions. This is both through the expertise and experience of the partners but also those involved as wider participants, including New Scientist, BBC Focus magazine, and the European Sounding Board representing a wide range of transdisciplinary experience and expertise.The project focuses its efforts on a selection of relevant and urgent societal issues, including climate change and biodiversity.
  • The breadth of science communication is captured, with an emphasis on the currently uncharted digital sphere, such as blogs, fora and social media. 
  • Project partners have access to science communication communities across Europe to gain
  • an understanding of similarities and differences in practices across the EU. Sensemaking practices are captured among citizens including any differences by gender, geographic location and socioeconomic circumstances.
  • A reflective learning approach joins scholars and practitioners in various local communities of inquiry to shape the development and testing of effective strategies in real-world contexts.

The approach throughout RETHINK is to understand existing activities and challenges in science communication, develop strategies to deal with these challenges and barriers, experiment with new strategies to then allow the synthesis of findings into new approaches to science communication. Outputs will be new ways of training those who engage in science communication, including those underserved by current training - such as bloggers and social media commentators. Strategies to improve individual and collective sensemaking by enhancing its openness and reflexivity are currently in the making. Guidance on policy will also be provided to create an environment that encourages open R&I. All of the research processes are open and so are the outputs and the data generated during the research to encourage a broad discussion and maximise uptake. 

Ecsite coordinates the work of 7 transdisciplinary hubs that will generate a thorough and widespread overview of the science communication in Europe. These hubs, called Rethinkerspaces, will act as testbeds and validation mechanisms for the research results of the project

RETHINK has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement no. 824573


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List of project partners