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Communicating science in a complex world

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Communicating science in a complex world

From the recent COVID-19 pandemic to climate change, science communication has been marred by the pervasive spread of misinformation and disinformation as scientific facts become politically charged battlegrounds. This piece explores how science communication can continue to make an impact.

Charmaine Caparas / Published on 4 December 2023

I recently attended the Japan Science Communication Forum, where I met other communicators facing the same challenges and grappling with the same critical question: In these times when empirical evidence is being weaponized for political gain and creating a landscape of ideological conflicts, how can science communicators thrive?

The heart of the matter

In her keynote, Ali Bailey of The Francis Crick Institute said, “If science is important, then the communication of science also really matters.”

Amidst these valid concerns, the solution lies in infusing a heartfelt connection into science communication. We must think about our target audiences not just as stakeholders we need to reach but as actual people with real-world concerns and motivations. Perhaps we need to re-evaluate how we reach them – maybe publishing briefs and white papers and posting them on social media is not enough. Maybe we need to explore other ways our messages can resonate with audiences by injecting a heartfelt essence into science communication.

It is not merely about facts and figures but about establishing a genuine connection with audiences. In this digital age, the human touch remains irreplaceable, and communicators must evolve to become not just conveyors of information but empathetic bridges between complex scientific concepts and, in SEI’s case, policymakers.

Start the conversation, use different mediums

The forum highlighted podcasting as a powerful tool for infusing emotion and connection into science communication. It transforms complex ideas into intimate conversations and bridges the gap between experts and the wider audience. A well-crafted podcast not only imparts knowledge but also brings the human side of science to the forefront, fostering a sense of shared exploration.

SEI Asia has been playing an active part in this space with our environmental and policy podcast here in Asia, podcast series on city health and well-being, and now, for COP 28. Our multimedia efforts have ranged from short films to animations, and also translated into regional languages so we reach beyond English-speaking audiences.

Tell the story beyond numbers

Data visualization takes center stage as a means to counter the noise of misinformation. The artful representation of data enhances comprehension and tells compelling stories that resonate emotionally. By presenting facts in a visually engaging manner, communicators can break through the barriers of misinformation and make science more accessible and relatable.

In the forum, I met Wonder Yonder, a creative studio that turns complex content into captivating stories that educate, entertain, and inspire.

Recently, SEI Asia hosted the Mekong Environmental Resilience Week where we engaged with Tofu Creatives to create visual summaries of the discussion and help our participants make sense of the data presented.


Drawing on IPCC session. Graphic: Tofu Creatives.

Create narratives that resonate

Short films, essays, poetry – they emerge as potent tools for science communicators to weave narratives that captivate and inspire. The New Yorker published a touching graphic poetry on artificial intelligence, language, and being human.

In the past three years, short films by SEI Asia has featured in the CCCL Film Festival on climate change and environmental sustainability. By embracing a range of storytelling techniques, communicators can engage audiences on a deeper level, making scientific concepts more relatable and memorable. The power of a well-crafted story lies in its ability to transcend divisive narratives and create a shared understanding.

Make the science real through experience

I had the pleasure of meeting Amanda Mathieson, a passionate advocate of combining the arts and sciences by designing of STEM escape rooms for public engagement. It was a very clever way of introducing STEM concepts in a non-formal, creative, and fun way that it got me thinking, should SEI start designing climate and disaster escape rooms for policy makers?

By inviting target audiences to actively participate in scientific endeavors, communicators can foster a sense of ownership and shared discovery. Whether through virtual reality experiences, escape rooms, or citizen science projects, this approach not only educates but also cultivates a community of informed and engaged individuals.

In summary, the critical importance for us as communicators is to remain mindful of the shared humanity that unites us, despite the variations in our contexts or priorities and the complex information and misinformation landscape that we find ourselves in at the present time.

Adding to the complexity, the rise of artificial intelligence raises questions about the future necessity of science communicators. The fear of being overshadowed by algorithms that can disseminate information autonomously raises legitimate concerns about the role and necessity of professionals in this field.

Whether we articulate or pen down scientific narratives, profound human connections serve as the most powerful remedy against the challenges confronting our profession.

This approach ensures that the very essence of science does not dissipate amidst the clamor but resonates genuinely with the hearts and minds of diverse communities.

SEI author

Charmaine Caparas

Communications Manager


SEI Asia

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