Reaching people with science communication

Next submission deadline: 01.12.2019

Under the programmatic heading of «Scientainment», Gebert Rüf Stiftung has since 2013 provided 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.

Objectives: science communication in the public relations trap

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 follows a self-legitimizing public relations logic. 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.

Reaching people

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.

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.

Model project: Knowledge in 20Minuten

From November 2009 until February 2017, every Friday the free commuter newspaper 20Minuten published a two-page section headed «Knowledge» which was initiated and supported by Gebert Rüf Stiftung and – during the pilot phase – co-funded by the Mercator Foundation Switzerland. The editorial responsibility lay with an indepedent agency of specialized science journalists. Since then the «knowledge» page has been produced by the editors of 20Minuten.

Support criteria

The project:

  • 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;
  • feasibility;
  • anticipated impact in terms of quality and quantity.

Submission of projects

Projects may be submitted to Gebert Rüf Stiftung by one of the quarterly deadlines (1 February, 1 May, 1 September, 1 December) in accordance with the general requirements. The submission procedure has two stages.

Project evaluation

Projects for the «Scientainment» area of activity may be submitted at any time. For ongoing calls for projects the selection process lasts approximately six months, from submission of the project proposal (step one) to the decision on the project application (step two). The board of trustees reaches the grant-making decision at its quarterly plenary meeting on the basis of the support criteria and the strategic objectives of the area of activity.

There is no procedure for appeals or applications for re-examination or reconsideration; no correspondence will be entered into regarding grant-making decisions.

Scientainment Clips

Approved projects scientainment

Picture Credits Header

Picture from the journal «Scientainment», February 2015, Christoph Läser Photograph AG Basel