Combatting Fake News
Fake news has become part of our daily speak. But it isn’t a new phenomenon, before it was called misinformation or conspiracy theories. However, what was once in the fringe of public debate has now become normalised and entered the realm of mainstream politics and the news cycle. Science isn’t spared. As it becomes increasingly politicised, dealing with fake news increasingly becomes part of our job as science communicators.
From climate change to vaccines, GMO, nuclear research and whether NASA has really been to the Moon, "alternative facts” spread as people have “had enough of experts” and get their news from new media such as social media, blogs & websites. How do we tackle fake news? Can facts prevail over beliefs? Do we have a duty as science communicators to combat misinformation?
Under this theme we will explore these questions and discuss what tools are available to us to effectively counteract the spread of misinformation.
There’s a lot more of it about these days. We are getting more familiar with the methods and tools, quantitative and qualitative. Evaluation is increasingly part of what we do and not an afterthought - an expectation, not an aspiration. So, how are we getting on with measuring success and what difference is it making? What unexpected challenges have you overcome or are you still facing? What is the most valuable thing you have uncovered? Have your stakeholders been won over by what you have shown them? How have you changed your practices because of what you have learned?
Research facilities exist for research, right? So the natural focus of management, staff and users is on maximising research outcomes, ensuring efficient operation, and delivering to users’ requirements. Communications and outreach can often receive a lower priority within facilities.
In fact embedding a culture where communications and outreach are valued and integrated supports these aims, and in addition can help recruit staff, inform users and staff of facility activities, demonstrate facility impact to funding agencies, promote the facility to potential users, and inform the public and key stakeholders of the role facilities play in advancing science.
How can the communications and outreach teams in a facility ensure an appropriate level of support, staff and money for their activities? Under this theme we want to explore the experience of communications and outreach teams from a range of facilities, using case studies from participants of what both works and doesn’t. The goal is to produce a helpful checklist for communications and outreach teams anywhere.
Risk and issues management in communications
One of the downsides of the new tools for digital communication is that a small issue easily can be escalated into a full blown crisis within a short period of time. Often when the news hits the papers and main stream media, it has been cooking in social media for a while, too often without the Communications Department noticing it.
Therefore it has been increasingly important to include risk management within strategies on how to handle general communication and crisis communication. For instance, the question "What can go wrong" should always be included in a strategy, as well as the question ”How can we prevent that from happening?”. The answers, however, to these questions aren’t that easily found.
Under this theme we would like to hear about best practices, as well as lessons learned from occasions when it didn’t work. How do you measure and manage risks and issues so they don’t escalate?
Unconventional outreach and new trends
Outreach and public engagement include all the opportunities to share our science, research and other activities with the general public. It has developed strongly over recent years and now takes many forms, but always involving the two-way process of interaction and listening. There is now a diverse collection of approaches to reaching and engaging target audiences, traditional and unorthodox, technological and artistic. As technology and the way in which people choose to receive information reshape the PE landscape, creativity and flexibility are essential to maintain a successful engagement programme.
In this theme we will explore the cutting-edge approaches to public engagement, sharing ideas and experiences of unconventional approaches and new trends, allowing us to rethink our current approaches to reach new audiences and add new and different dimensions to our activities. We encourage submissions that present the use of new technologies, novel approaches to dissemination, development of traditional approaches to reach new audiences, new partnerships, and the future of public engagement at research facilities.
Equality and diversity communications
Differences make good sparks. Opposites attract. Diverse teams create more value all around. We all see the importance of inclusivity, diversity, and equality. But a lot of unconscious processes make finding people similar to us easier to connect with, excluding those who are different. What is familiar feels comfortable and safe to us. Addressing those unconscious biases is a painful process, it demands that we look at ourselves and our motives in a brutally honest way. The next step, changing our way of communicating to avoid those thoughts and behaviours that create inequality, is a treacherous one. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Procedures put in place in good faith to support inclusivity may actually backfire and put those it aims to help in an even more disadvantaged place. Or maybe the person you want to help actually doesn’t want to be seen as in need of help, and prefers to suck up the micro-aggressions in order to blend in. How do you even find out about possible diversity issues in your organisation? And how do you get buy-in from people not affected by a certain type of inequality?
This session is meant to raise awareness and inspire participants to start working with these topics.
We would like to hear from you what you tried, what worked, what didn’t work, and what you are thinking of trying and would like to hear others’ opinions on.
Building and maintaining public trust
When was the last time you put your trust in somebody? And what made you trust them? For companies consumer trust in the brand is at the core of their marketing strategy, and potential loss of trust is high on the risk register.
As institutions, what can we do to build and maintain trust, not just of the public but also our key stakeholders? How does one earn the trust of stakeholders? And if trust is lost, how can one re-build it?
Here, you have the opportunity to present your toolkit for building trust inside and outside your institution. We want to know, what you did to convince your stakeholders that you are worth their trust? And we also want to know, if you lost their trust, what action did you take to mitigate it?
Finding the next science superstar
In the days of YouTube and Instagram a short video or podcast can bring a story to life better than a leaflet, brochure or press release.
But who are the best people to make these videos? Who should write and present them? Do we want one Brian Cox for the whole community? Or is it more useful for research facilities to find and grow their own real, engaging communicators, creating a more diverse set of people telling these stories?
Competitions like FameLab help to seek out new faces. But how do you persuade scientists to take time out of their busy schedules for this, and why should they? What happens to those people entering or winning these competitions? How can we keep them motivated and use them to tell our stories in the best ways possible? Then, once you’ve found one great person, there is a danger that person gets asked again and again to be the ‘face’ of the organisation – to answer the journalists’ questions, to present at the school events and to take part in the new video or podcast. Is this good for, or potentially damaging, to their careers?
How can we empower scientists to do this? What can we offer them – training, support, coaching, recognition, promotion – to help build a larger and more diverse base of great people we can use to be the face of our science?
Communication of distributed infrastructures
Communicating for European projects, consortia or other associations is a challenge. For those responsible for the communication of a joint project, you probably already know the cultural and logistical challenges that such a project entails.
How do we get the information we need and how do we motivate our partners to provide it remotely? Access to information is made more difficult by the different locations of the partners and leads to a dependence on local contacts. Our sources, here our contact persons have thus a great influence on the quality of our public relations work. Moreover, as a communicator, these are the real and tough challenges, which we have to grapple with on a daily basis.
So is there a universal formula for communicating distributed infrastructures?