Reaching people with science communication; new bridges between science and society – since 2013
In Switzerland, science communication usually takes the form of the scientifically and educationally authentic conveyance and transmission of information. Among the vehicles available are innumerable institution-based periodicals. There is also an abundant range of events in a wide variety of formats on offer from universities and specialized institutions. For some time now, the highly resourced discipline of science communication has been endeavouring to open up the academic ivory tower and initiate a dialogue between researchers and the public. Despite adopting perfectly popular and attractive forms, science communication conveys hardly any emotion and frequently employs a self-legitimizing undertone. This type of high-threshold science communication will find an audience in people already interested in education and science. But it fails to reach the majority of the Swiss population.
Under the programmatic heading of «Scientainment», Gebert Rüf Stiftung provides resources to promote innovative model projects for low-threshold science communication. The underlying aim is to stimulate discussion about forms of contemporary science communication and to encourage new formats.
The fact that today’s established forms of science communication fail to reach some two thirds of the population is critical for Switzerland’s future in two respects: For one thing, it is the central task of any knowledge-based society to carry into the future as many people as possible at all educational levels of the value chain. On the other hand, as a key political and social priority, the ERI sector must remain capable of reaching a majority of the populace over the longer term if future public budgets for education, research and innovation are to be voted through against other budgets.
Scientainment as cipher
Scientainment is a low-threshold way of communicating about education, research and innovation which intelligently combines entertainment with the imparting of knowledge: Importance is placed not only on factual content, but also on finding a form that resonates with the target audience and appeals to positive emotions. One aim of scientainment is to inject back into science a sense of personal relevance, astonishment, magic, puzzlement, surprise, excitement, fun and hope. Scientainment can reach people who have no direct or indirect association with the ERI sector.
Model project: Knowledge in 20Minuten
Under a project initiated three years ago by Gebert Rüf Stiftung and co-funded by the Mercator Foundation Switzerland, every Friday the free commuter newspaper 20Minuten publishes a two-page section headed «Knowledge». Responsibility for this journalistically independent feature lies with a team of specialist editors. By «subversively» using the commuter newspaper and its defined layout, the project can address 1.4 million readers, most of whom could hardly be reached by the more staid, established science communication media.
Low-threshold science communication projects are welcome
Gebert Rüf Stiftung finances projects which are either fundamentally new or have been revisited and adapted to the goal of scientainment. In setting up this long-term funding programme, Gebert Rüf Stiftung’s objective is to inspire science communicators, associations, organizations and institutions in education, science and the arts to address the need for low-threshold science communication and to develop new forms of science dialogue in collaboration with representatives of non-scientific target groups.
- is innovative and entertainment-driven;
- imparts and discusses knowledge from current scientific research;
- is aimed at non-scientific target groups in Switzerland;
- has the potential to create a broad base of awareness for scientific topics;
- is planned and realized by an interdisciplinary team from the science community and other sectors (e.g. sport, pop culture, entertainment, new media).
Support is not provided for projects which:
- involve marketing campaigns or institutional PR work;
- are aimed at research into science communication
Appraisal is based on the following criteria:
- expertise of the project team;
- originality of the format and approach;
- suitability of the format and approach for the given target audience;
- anticipated impact in terms of quality and quantity.
- If a project is approved and once work is complete, the project team is required to make a 2- to 5-minute YouTube-ready video showcasing the project.
- The videos will be published on the Gebert Rüf Stiftung website and elsewhere.
- Projects may be submitted to Gebert Rüf Stiftung by one of the quarterly deadlines in accordance with the general requirements.
- The submission procedure is two-stage.