Science in Society

Many of the scientific issues of societal relevance are complex and are therefore difficult to communicate. There is a real danger that science could increasingly disconnect itself from society. The key question is then how and on which foundation scientists can contribute to better integrate science in society without loosing their «independence».

Conclusions at the congress «We Scientists Shape Science»

  • Although science is still well recognized in society, there is ample room for improving the relationship between scientists and the public. In particular, the current mostly one-way communication between scientists and society has to be replaced by a dialog taking place in both ways.
  • Communication of complex scientific issues of societal relevance is an integral part of the research process, and therefore primarily the task of academics and should not be delegated to journalists. For this sake, more scientists should be trained at an early stage in their career as competent and honest «knowledge brokers» («interface researchers»). This should be supported by institutions and/or funding agencies. Universities of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen) are supposed to be essential players in this context.
  • Knowledge brokering is very demanding, and needs to be promoted by educating scientists, particularly young researchers, in inter- and transdisciplinary research methods, especially by participative approaches. Self-reflection and discussions about social responsability / ethical values, integrity, diversity, complexity and uncertainties have to be integrated in their curriculum and in education at all levels.
  • Institutional and structural barriers to inter- and transdisciplinary research needs to be dismantled such as rethinking current academic evaluation (e.g. h-index, lack of incentives for team-science), and relativized by additional criteria such as teaching, outreach activity, intermediary work, and by signing the Dora-declaration.
  • We need a new definition of relevance and responsibility (beyond economic issues) and linking them to scientific excellence. Academies could play an important role how these new criteria are implemented. A consolidation at international level is important.

Workshop held at the congress «We Scientists Shape Science», January 2017, Bern. Conclusions are based on the debate in the workshop and on online comments by the participants.

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