10 April 2017

Environmental communication a possible programme theme

Mistra is considering whether to fund a new programme on research communication. Work is under way on drawing up a background report, and the plan is to issue a call for proposals in the autumn.

Research and researchers enjoy relatively high credibility in society. But communication about research, not least in the environmental field, is challenged by a growing political polarisation in society and even by sheer disinformation — ‘fake news’. Mistra has taken note of this trend.

‘Everyone’s talking about an increase in “resistance to facts”. Environmental issues are very often especially sensitive, since they involve human behaviour and ideological dividing lines. This sometimes makes it difficult to conduct a good dialogue,’ says Malin Lindgren, Mistra’s Communications Manager.

Mistra recently engaged the British organisation Climate Outreach to review the status of knowledge in scientific communication, with a focus on environmental research. The organisation’s task is to evaluate the scientific literature, but also to interview researchers and practitioners in the sector. Their conclusions will include proposals to Mistra on the form a research programme might take.

Malin Lindgren states that Mistra is not envisioning a practically oriented programme that draws up checklists on how to successfully communicate its environmental research.

‘Instead, the programme is intended to contribute in-depth understanding of the conditions and current challenges of research communication. This may concern, for example, questions relating to scientific evidence, critical thinking, trust, “framing” or populism,’ Lindgren says.

The background report from Climate Outreach is to be presented this summer. In the late summer, Mistra will probably issue invitations to a hearing with Swedish stakeholders. After that, Mistra’s Board will decide whether to issue a call for proposals.

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