SciComm Funders

SciComm: The Significance of Science Communication and Funding Opportunities Dedicated to SciComm

Written by: Amrita Chowdhury

What is SciComm?

Science communication, widely termed as SciComm, is the method of informing and raising awareness about critical science-related topics among the general public. It is a relatively new field that functions to bridge the gap between scientists and people who do not have scientific training. SciComm is used to strengthen the communication of science-related topics.

Importance of SciComm

1. Increase Diversity in Research 

The world of research has faced an inherent problem of diversity and inclusion. There has been a steady effort from some governments and research organizations to assure diversity among researchers. But these efforts have not always been successful. According to Laura Czerniewicz, Associate professor at the University of Cape Town, “If the world were mapped according to how many scientific research papers each country produced, it would take on a rather bizarre, uneven appearance. The northern hemisphere would balloon beyond recognition. The global south, including Africa, would effectively melt off the map.” [1]. This proves that inclusion and diversity are still not a part of the science and research world. Apart from money, the reason behind this is the lack of accessibility, understanding and confidence. SciComm can be a powerful tool to bridge this gap, generate awareness and interest. It can make science more accessible to more people. 

2. Improve Community Understanding of Science

The world has realized that community knowledge is a powerful force. Society should be aware of the scientific methods that can be useful in everyday life. People should also understand the threats to the environment and the world to be more sensitive about it. For example, until we knew about the harmful effects of CFC, we could not have understood the threats to the ozone layer and change our behavior. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we needed to first understand how the virus spreads, before we could appreciate the importance of social distancing. Science communication plays a significant role in generating awareness and understanding.

3. Increase Awareness of Technological Advances

Society at large is the consumer of scientific inventions. So, the researchers and the scientific community must take the responsibility to make people aware of the inventions that are ultimately for them to use. Society is overwhelmed with too much information and polarized on individualistic beliefs. SciComm is a much-needed tool to get rid of the confusion around science and scientific research.

4. Scientific Networking

From the perspective of the researchers, the research community can be helped immensely through scientific communication. Sharing their work outside the scientific community can help boost their career, increases their chance of getting funding and maximizes the chances of new collaborations.

Key elements for effective science communication 

Four principal questions need to be answered before planning an effective SciComm strategy: who, why, what and how.  

Who: A prior knowledge about the audience to whom the communication needs to be focused should be well known. The approach to the engagement will vary depending on the age, understanding and interest of the audience. 

Why: The purpose of the planned public engagement should be understood. The purpose can be to create awareness and knowledge, to evoke interest, reframe the idea and many more. The mode and tone of communication depend on the purpose.

What: After knowing the audience and the purpose, the content that needs to be communicated can be planned and prepared. 

How: This involves the mode of communication. There are many ways to communicate science. Articles in public platforms, mainstream magazines and blogs have been used for public awareness or communication for a long time. Arranging workshops, public lectures, science contests, etc. are powerful tools used in science communication. Public engagements and outreach activities have been taken up by many of the funders and organizations to spread science and scientific discoveries across the world. 

Effective SciComm requires keeping these four key questions in mind, always. SciComm involves both the research community and the general public. The research community takes an effort to communicate their science to the public through different modes of SciComm. 

The first science show to be broadcast in the USA was the John Hopkins Science review (1948-1955) [2]. This show is one of the most important milestones for SciComm. Guests, both scientists and non-scientists, were invited to talk about different science topics. After this, there have been several science shows that tried to bridge the gap between scientists and the general public and raise awareness about different science topics.  

A few of the famous science shows include: Bill Nye the Science Guy, Star Talk by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Cosmos: Possible Worlds, Attenborough´s Planet Earth, Our Planet by David Attenborough, etc. These shows have become popular across all ages and there lies the power of science communication.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) came up with its first science show, NOVA, to establish a connection between science and society. It produced a series of interviews with researchers, and videos explaining different scientific phenomena and discoveries. To date, NOVA is the longest-running science series in the USA [2].

Estonian Research Council also runs their science outreach program named “Rocket69” as a science talent show for the students. Every week, 10% of the Estonian population tune into the TV show.

With time, SciComm has adapted modern technologies to communicate with people. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are the new tools that are being used for storytelling in SciComm.

Apart from science shows and storytelling, in the history of SciComm, there have been a few SciComm stars who have created songs, music videos related to different scientific topics. The efforts of the SciComm community and the usage of different tools have made it possible that SciComm never goes out of fashion. With time, innovative technologies have been adapted to make communication age and time appropriate.

There have also been movements to engage non-scientists in scientific data collection, e.g. in the US, there is an excellent citizen science program [3] that encourages people to participate in scientific data collection. Audubon Society arranges the longest-running citizen science project “Christmas Bird Count” that allows volunteers to contribute to a wildlife census [4]. The EarthEcho Water Challenge (formerly World Water Monitoring Challenge) is an international program that involves citizens in protecting local waterbodies by engaging them to conduct basic monitoring of their nearby waterbodies [5]. These programs not only involve non-scientists in data collection but also raises awareness regarding our surrounding.

Fear, disorientation and distrust often surround science and scientists because the non-scientists in this world do not always have a clear understanding of the scientific process. Science communication, over the years, has played a key role in communicating with people, growing trust and abolishing the distance between scientists and the public. It is a valuable tool with growing importance and should be used to involve the public in science to improve our planet.

Funders supporting SciComm around the world

Funders and research organizations have become more aware of the importance of SciComm. Raising awareness and interest among the general public is a valuable tool to promote inventions, share knowledge and evoke interest. Many funders, worldwide, have come forward to sponsor public engagement and science communication grants, which allow researchers to spread their knowledge and understanding of science topics among people. Let us look at some funders who support SciComm globally. 

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) promotes SciComm through different initiatives like science policy, diplomacy, education, career support, and public engagement with science. AAAS research funding programs are open to US-based researchers who must have the legal right to work in the USA. 

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is a US government department dedicated to research in the humanities and “enables individuals and institutions across the United States to study, preserve, and share the best of America’s history and culture.” Along with funding awards and research grants, NEH also funds science communication projects.

Formas is the Swedish government research council for sustainable development. Besides funding research grants, Formas also funds communication grants for Sweden-based researchers, mostly for those at academic research institutions and universities. 

The Genetics Society, a UK-based society, is dedicated to the promotion of research, training, teaching and public engagement in all areas of genetics. The society funds science communication grants and travel grants in order to promote training and public engagement. 

The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) provides funding for prizes and awards, public engagement, training programs, research grants, and travel grants for chemists at all career stages. Funding is available to member chemists worldwide, with some funding programs requiring UK residency. 

Applied Microbiology International (formerly known as the Society for Applied Microbiology (SfAM)), the oldest microbiology society in the UK, supports microbiology research and microbiologists around the world. The Society funds microbiologists at all career stages through various funding mechanisms for research projects, scholarships, professional development, and outreach. Some funding mechanisms are limited to microbiologists in the UK while others are available to all members worldwide. 

The Microbiology Society is dedicated to microbiology and microbiologists. Among its many activities, the Society provides funding to support its members’ professional development, including grants for travel, science outreach and scientific exchange.

The Federation of European Microbiological Societies (FEMS) advances microbiology through knowledge development and networking activities. Among its many activities, the Federation provides funding for travel grants, grants to organize conferences, science communication award and research and training grants for early career researchers who belong to FEMS member societies. 

SciComm funding: resources to facilitate science communication across the globe

The world of research is still fighting for diversity and inclusiveness. Mistrust of science exists in many pockets of the world. The funders and the researchers, being the flag-bearers of science and technology, are ready to take the responsibility to raise knowledge and awareness about science through science communication programs. Only if the whole world thinks from a scientific mindset, the situations can be improved and we, as a society, can do better for the world. At scientifyRESEARCH, we support this mission and to honor this, we would like to highlight our list of funding opportunities in science communication. We continuously update this list to provide you with the latest funding opportunities in science communication worldwide. We also provide eligibility filters that help you find the right funding for you. Bookmark this page and sign-up for our grant alerts or monthly newsletter, to get the latest research funding information from funders around the world.   

References 

[1] Map of the world’s scientific research, QUARTZ Official Website, accessed October 10, 2022. 

[2] Science communication history, ScienceFriday Official Website, accessed October 10, 2022. 

[3] Citizen science program, Official Website, accessed October 18, 2022. 

[4] Christmas bird count, National Audobon Society Official Website, accessed October 18, 2022. 

[5] EarthEcho water challenge, Monitor Water Official Website, accessed October 18, 2022. 


Sign-up for the
scientifyRESEARCH
monthly research
funding newsletter

You can unsubscribe at any time.