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Impact Unit

Effects and evaluation of science communication

contact

Project lead

Ricarda Ziegler

Tel.: 030 2062295-40

ricarda.ziegler@w-i-d.de

Project management

Bastian Kremer

Tel.: 030 2062295-37

bastian.kremer@w-i-d.de

Project management

Imke Hedder

Tel.: 030 2062295-23

imke.hedder@w-i-d.de

Research associate

Liliann Fischer

Tel.: 030 2062295-32

liliann.fischer@w-i-d.de

overview

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Towards more impact-oriented science communication

Student labs, science slams or science blogs – science communication nowadays comes in a multitude of formats and via various channels. Equally diverse are the goals and expectations associated with these activities. Often there is insufficient evidence of whether these aims are being achieved and how these activities impact on the participants. Was the target group of an activity actually reached? Has the participants’ interest in the topic or science in general increased? Have they changed their mind regarding a specific research topic or even their behaviour? And does this fit the funders’ or project managers’ expectations?

In the future, the Impact Unit at Wissenschaft im Dialog will tackle these and further questions around impact and evaluation in science communication. By developing products and establishing a network, the Impact Unit wants to contribute to shaping the future of a more impact oriented and meaningful evaluation practice in Germany: Together with practitioners we want to develop evaluation tools and materials in order to provide them for direct use on an online platform. In collaboration with international experts and researchers in the field of science communication we want to ensure that scientific knowledge finds its way into the practice of science communication and that on the other hand practical realities are taken into account within the science of science communication. We want to discuss future possibilities for science communication funding and establish a new culture of evaluation practice and impact orientation together with funders and organisations supporting science communication in Germany.

Sponsors

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Aims and impacts in science communication

Science communication is a highly discussed topic in the political sphere as well as in academia with evolving funding possibilities. Therefore, defining and setting strategic goals becomes more important as well as gaining knowledge about formats and activities in order to reach these goals. A meaningful evaluation practice is necessary for measuring impact and for assessing whether aims have been achieved.

Goals and target groups of the Impact Unit

It is the Impact Unit’s goal to contribute to a meaningful evaluation practice and stronger impact orientation within German science communication: Formats and activities of science communication should be selected and planned in an impact-oriented manner involving strategic goal-setting. In the future, professional implementation of science communication should always include the evaluation of impact and determine if goals have been achieved. It is important to bear in mind however, that this does not automatically require quantitative indicators and standardized questionnaires. On the contrary, the Impact Unit wants to raise awareness for different kinds of evaluation methods. We want to especially highlight possibilities for applying qualitative evaluation methods, particularly with regard to innovative or experimental formats of science communication.

Realizing the broad scope of evaluation methods available to them is of great importance for practitioners engaging in science communication: it can help them gain a better understanding of the impact and success of their activities but also offer insights into project processes and might open up room for improvements and necessary changes. For funders and supporters of science communication, impact orientation and evaluation is an opportunity to better track the use of funds in relation to their strategic aims. Scientifically confirmed knowledge generated by researchers of science communication in the German and the international context serves as the basis for the products and tools developed by the Impact Unit. Hence, the Impact Unit works at the interface between research and practice in a coalition with practitioners, researchers and international experts as well as funders of science communication.

Development of Evaluation Tools and an Online Evaluation Platform

The evaluation of science communication projects and formats is equally relevant and challenging. It requires knowledge on the types of evaluation, as well as the differences between varying evaluation designs and methods for gathering different kinds of evaluation data. After designing an evaluation, it needs to be implemented within a science communication activity and, last but not least, data and results have to be collected, processed and analysed. All of this requires expertise and resources.

Therefore, the Impact Unit will develop evaluation materials and tools such as guidelines and templates for the evaluation of different goals and various formats of science communication provided via an online-evaluation-platform. In the case of standardised surveys, it will be possible to design, conduct and analyse questionnaires directly via the online platform, giving project managers the opportunity to anonymously compare results with other projects and identify needs for improvement.

Answering meta questions of science communication

The community of science of science communication is growing internationally as well as in Germany. However, there is still a lack of evidence regarding questions of practice and scientifically validated knowledge often remains contained within the community of research experts. For this reason, the Impact Unit will gather and provide scientifically validated knowledge on science communication at the interface between research and practice. At the same time, questions of relevance for the practice of science communication will be identified in concert with decision makers, funders and practitioners and will be followed up in collaboration with academic partners.

Networking and Partners

Building on up-to-date research and international experience, taking into account the needs of practitioners and considering discussions about science communication and its goals in politics and academia are at the core of the Impact Unit’s work. Therefore, close collaboration with different stakeholder groups is a core element within the Impact Unit’s activities.

An international advisory board comprising representatives from all target groups is one way by which the Impact Unit will realise these goals. Additionally, a number of stakeholder workshops are planned in order to gather relevant knowledge and experience as well as taking target group-specific needs into consideration when conceptualising products and activities. In the further course of the project, communication and networking elements will be developed to ensure the productive use of meta-study results and, in particular, the online platform’s evaluation tools for the different target groups.