Mind the “openness-paradox”, though
If scientists want to reach with their data and facts even underserved audiences they have to pay attention to some more aspects in their communication than usually: a) to approach people proactively and b) to look for cooperation partners who are trusted by the groups yet. These can be institutions which are regularly dealing with them or opinion leaders within these groups who help to overcome barriers and fears. In addition to these findings a new article by the department of science communication at the Institute of Technology in Karlsruhe (KIT) points out that whenever scientists are communicating to underserved audiences they should mind the so-called “openness paradoxon”, though: this happens when well-intended offers like to have a choice between various packages of information or to have the opportunitiy to question and comment in any moment might not satisfy, but overwhelm the target groups since they are culturally not used to that. Beside this anything which works with all lay people applies also to students in a vocational school, muslim youths with a migration background or socially disadvantaged people in marginalized neighborhoods which the scientists of Karlsruhe have analysed: Here scientists have to a) listen, b) facilitate the access of information, c) be relevant for everyday life and d) set longterm activities.
Humm, C/Schrögel, Ph., „Science for ALL? Practical Recommendations on Reaching Underserved Audiences”, in Frontiers in Communication, 7.7.2020, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcomm.2020.00042/full
From the practice:
Corona amplified the pressure onto researchers, particularly from the natural-scientific branch, to communicate their contents simply, eye-catchingly and still substantiatedly. Looking around among clients from universities or research institutes I do observe an interesting mixture between Hurray-mood – i.e. with the PR professionals (“Finally!”) and with those who have succeeded in front of a microphone yet (“That´s mine!”) – and a controversion between intellect (“Unfortunately we have to live with it – it has to be done”) and emotional defensiveness (“Still I don´t like it at all”) with those who have difficulties.
In this context scientists are in a couple of aspects a similar clientel to facts- and data-driven experts from different professional fields: lawyers, auditors or technicians, just to name a few. Still, the shyness regarding non-factual language can be dissolved pretty well because professional communication also works with factors like goals and structure. And the empathy needed for any target person or group we also elaborate on together