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Nachgefragt – bei Cissi Askwall

09. September 2019

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Foto: Gustaf Waesterberg/Vetenskap & Allmänhet

In the series „Nachgefragt“ ("Asking Questions"), we introduce, in no particular order, people working in science communication. With 17 questions - and 17 answers, sometimes serious, sometimes humorous.

In our fourty-fifth episode we are speaking with Cissi Askwall, Secretary General of the Swedish non-profit association Vetenskap & Allmänhet.

A good communicator needs…

communications skills (obviously), curiosity and courage!

What motivated you to work in the field of science communication?

I’m passionate about science opening up to the public and society at large. I feel very privileged to get paid to do something I love to work with.

Describe your daily work in three words.

Meetings, emails, coffee…

What is the best experience you have had as a communicator?

A few years ago, VA organised a science picnic, where we invited passers-by to sit down on a blanket with researchers from a variety of fields, and have a chat over a cup of coffee. We had expected it to be a bit like speed-dating, with brief encounters, short questions and answers. Instead, the picnic blankets became the scene for lengthy conversations and deep exchange. Afterwards, the researchers were amazed about the experience, and the new perspectives and insights they had gained through the discussions.

What was your biggest communication disaster?

I would say one time when I helped organising a science communication event, and didn‘t put enough work into communicating it. The result: a communication event that no one knew existed. A classic mistake…

Which of your traits bothers you the most in your daily work?

Time optimism.

Which (historical) person would you like to have dinner with?

Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist and zoologist, who laid the ground for the modern taxonomy in the 18th century.

What is your favourite research discipline?


Which research topic would you least like to communicate?

Advanced mathematics

If time and money were no object: Which science communication project would you like to do?

I would like to organise a global carousel where science communicators could exchange experiences by spending time in a colleague’s workplace in a culturally different country.

If you didn’t work in science communication, what field would you like to be in?

I would like to work as a philanthropist donating money to brilliant science communication projects (such as the one just mentioned).

Science communication in 2030 will be…

much more appreciated and recognised by the scientific community and society than it is today.

What do you consider the greatest achievement in the history of science?

The discovery and exploitation of electricity.

How did you imagine the future as a child?

I saw myself living in a hi-tech society with flying cars and space travel available to ordinary citizens, but also facing a constant threat of nuclear war.

How do you keep your head clear when you are stressed?

I try to prioritise; to remove non-urgent stressors from my head adding them to the to-do-later list. I then deal with the three most urgent issues/questions of the day.

I like to help colleagues with …

language improvement and journalistic twists to written texts.

Who would you like to send this questionnaire to and what question would you like to ask them?

I would like to send it to Sophie Duncan, Deputy Director of the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement in the UK. My question to Sophie is: Could you please share your top three scicomm tips?


Cissi Askwall

Cissi Askwall has been Secretary General of the Swedish non-profit association Vetenskap & Allmänhet, VA (Public & Science) since 2011. She has a diploma in Journalism and has also studied political science, psychology and theology. Previously, she worked as a news journalist and producer at Swedish Radio and the national news agency TT. She has also been the Head of Communications at VA and at the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, and is currently the Vice President of the European Science Engagement Association, Eusea.

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