According to a Gebert Rüf Stiftung report, science communication in Switzerland has the tendency to take on a serious tone in its transmission of information, often in academic periodicals or institution-based publications. While there are a range of public science events in Switzerland, they aren’t widely attended and do not have mass appeal across all age groups. The goal of Inspiring Science Communication was to help Swiss science communicators reach not only those already interested in science, but the majority of the Swiss population.
Inspiring Science Communication proposed two immersive, one-week dives into the science communication trends of the San Francisco Bay Area with the goal of motivating the Swiss science communication landscape to experiment and embrace new approaches and formats, such as scientainment, as possible means for sharing science.
The program of two study tours took place over two years (October 2015 & October 2016), and exposed groups of relevant science communicators - many working in Swiss institutions of higher education - to different ways of engaging with target audiences, disseminating scientific information, establishing a dialog between science and society, and contributing to the public understanding of science.
On each study tour, a group of seven participants attended the Bay Area Science Festival, where they stepped aboard a ship packed bow to stern with lectures and demos and infiltrated Alcatraz Island in the pursuit of science. They took a walking tour of science and creativity in the city of innovation and met the editorial teams at popular science publications. Visitors learned how scientists at local public institutions share their research with broad audiences through visuals, videos, and social media, and saw first-hand how companies dedicated to education relay the science behind their products and services. Most of all, study tour attendees engaged with the critical mass of active science lovers and citizen scientists in the Bay Area who make being nerdy “cool” in the region.
Study tour participants took home a spirit of enthusiasm that will fuel new ideas and new formats for sharing science in Switzerland, ultimately serving to raise scientific knowledge and awareness within the country’s general public and across all ages.
What is special about the project?
As far as we were aware, the Swiss science communication community has never before been offered the chance to explore innovations in their field in the San Francisco/Silicon Valley region in an organized way. The fact that this was an experiential, first-hand dive into the methods and practices being used in the region rather than a dry written report made it much more powerful.
Communicators saw, felt, touched, heard, and tasted how alive the San Francisco Bay Area is with enthusiasm for the geeky, the gross, the nerdy. A science event for adults that takes place on a boat and inside the Alcatraz Prison? Yes. A public science event complete with a robot zoo on the baseball field of the San Francisco Giants’ stadium? Yes. Extracting DNA in a high tech lab - with not a scientist in sight? Yes.
The experiences challenged traditional approaches to communicating science, and challenged participants themselves to come up with entirely new, often visual methods (in a workshop setting) for getting difficult concepts across in entertaining ways. This was not be a program of one-way meetings. Attendees participated in workshops, social media, blog posts, and engaged in a back-and-forth with experts and audiences on the ground. They openly questioned why such new formats are successful in the Bay Area and whether or not they could work in Switzerland. The essence of the project was to embrace creativity and take back to Switzerland the ideas, skills, and tools to test some of the methods and see if they catch hold.
This project started in January 2015
January 2015 - September 2015: Study tour #1 planning, promotion, participant selections, organization, community building, dissemination of relevant case studies and reading to participants
October 22 – October 28 2015: Study tour #1
November 2015: Study tour #1 follow-up, survey, and community-building; planning study tour #2 begins
January 2016 – September 2016: Study tour #2 planning, promotion, participant selections, organization, community building, dissemination of relevant case studies and reading to participants
October 30 – November 4 2016: Study tour #2
November 2016 - December 2016: Study tour #2 follow-up, survey, and community building; final reporting
Persons involved in the project
, CEO, swissnex San Francisco, project leader
Megan Williams, former Head of Communication, swissnex San FranciscoBenjamin Bollmann
, Head of Science Programs & University Affairs, swissnex San FranciscoSheila Fakurnejad
, Project Manager, Interdisciplinary Programs, swissnex San Francisco
Last update to this project presentation 02.12.2020