New Imperial Partnership to Explore Science Communication in Poland and UK

Imperial will collaborate with four leading universities in Poland to improve science communication in both countries.

The aim is to create better bridges between scientific researchers, the public and decision-makers in order to help shape political and societal attitudes in areas such as climate change and pandemics.

The collaboration kicked off at a virtual event this week, attended by executives and academics from Imperial and its partners – Adam Mickiewicz University, Jagiellonian University, Gdansk Medical University and Warsaw University of Technology.

This is always how we have thought of scientific communication at Imperial: a question of sharing, above all a question of sharing ideas and sharing expertise. Dr Stephen Webster Director of the Scientific Communication Unit

Imperial has existing links with these and other institutions in Poland – for example by publishing more than 1000 joint publications over the past five years with colleagues in Poland and collaborating on more than 80 European funded projects (Horizon 2020 and FP7).

One of the first initiatives to emerge from the collaboration will be a series of podcasts on different themes of science communication, including scientific uncertainty. A website will be developed to help colleagues research new ideas in science communication, both in the UK and in Poland. Partner organizations will also seek to develop science communication workshops, with Polish and Imperial colleagues developing their skills together.

Empower society through communication

The collaboration was led at Imperial by Dr Stephen Webster who is director of the Order Scientific communication unit. He opened the event by examining the role of science communication in the world today, and noted that “communiquare” – the Latin root of the word “communication” – means to share.

“This is always how we have thought of scientific communication at Imperial: a question of sharing, in particular a question of sharing ideas and sharing expertise. Since the beginning of this collaboration, the central idea has been that the university can truly be a center of scientific communication.

Imperial Provost, Professor Ian Walmsley then officially launched the collaboration and signed the letter of intent. Addressing the audience, he stressed that communication is a crucial tool in the overall mission of universities to bring benefits to society through discovery and innovation.

“It’s not just about inventing something and hoping people will find it useful,” he said. “It’s more about engaging with society to help a wide range of people understand what we do and, in fact, get us to hear what they need. This dialogue is absolutely crucial and, in this sense, science communication has never been more important than it is today.

“It is also important that it is not a single voice, but that it is diverse and reflects different points of view from around the world. And therefore, this collaboration is particularly important for us, especially as we seek to continue to maintain and strengthen our ties with Europe.

The Polish Perspective

Professor Bogumi, a Kaniewska, Rector of Adam Mickiewicz University, also spoke at the virtual event, which stressed that science communication requires “a diverse set of skills and team effort”. She noted that the collaboration involves academic staff from faculties of science, social sciences and humanities – also incorporating awareness raising and training of graduates.

Professor Marcin Grucha? A, Rector of Gdansk Medical University, noted how the global Covid-19 pandemic has brought to light the importance of communication, especially with regard to the evolving nature of science and the importance of vaccination for common security. He said there was a lot to improve in this communication, adding: “Universities are not islands, they have to be part of society”.

Growth potential

Thanking guests at the end of the ceremony, Dr Webster discussed the future of the collaboration. He stressed that after Brexit, Imperial intends to strengthen its ties with Europe and that science communication is a natural way to bring scientists together.

Like Imperial, Polish universities are now actively engaging with their communities. In collaboration with funders, collaboration has real potential for staff training programs, student exchanges and projects, and even summer schools. Dr Webster summed up: “As with all the best in universities, science communication is all about taking the imagination and making it real.”

Main image credit: By Krzysztof Duda – AMU Fotoportal, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=81348302

/ Public publication. This material is from the original organization and may be ad hoc in nature, edited for clarity, style and length. View full here.

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