Members of the STEAM Research Group at the University of Westminster including Julio Gimenez, Head of the Westminster Professional Language Centre, Guy Waddell, Lecturer in the Department of Life Sciences, and Doug Specht, Research Associate from the Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI) at the University of Westminster, contributed to an article on how to improve the public’s fading trust in experts and science, which was published by Times Higher Education magazine.

The STEAM Research Group’s study showed that public trust in science is closely connected to how scientists communicate with the public. The traditional approach of scientists educating the ignorant public is problematic because it creates a stance between experts and non-experts, which is visible from the language scientists use, while trying to communicate their research.

Another issue emphasised in the article is that media reporting can seriously distort scientific knowledge, supported by an example of a recent experiment on rats implanted with a panoramic infrared sensory system, which was reported as a groundwork for humans to have superhero night vision.

The dissemination of scientific discoveries exclusively to the scientific community is said to have resulted in missed opportunities for scientists to develop communication skills to engage with other audiences but this tendency is expected to change with the inclusion of an assessment of non-academic impact in the UK’s Research Excellence Framework.

Also, research shows that people would be more interested in science if they were involved in it before rather than after it happens. A survey from the Public Attitudes to Science study shows that seven in ten people think that “scientists should listen more to what ordinary people think”, meaning that a “social collaboration” in scientific research would be beneficial to scientists, who would develop the skills needed for communicating to non-specialist audiences and to the public, who will trust science more if they participate actively within its making.

“Realising this vision should not be the responsibility of scientists alone, however. Only if scientists, academics, the media and the public work collaboratively can science become – as the British Science Association’s vision reads – a fundamental part of culture and society at large, instead of set apart from it.”

Read the full article on Times Higher Education magazine's website.

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