by Imran Khan, Chief Executive


Working with science communicators is an essential part of the British Science Association’s strategy. Science communicators can reach new audiences, improve our work, and promote science as a fundamental part of culture and society.

In September 2015, we released a survey to assess the current landscape of the science communication community. Through that survey, we've gained a better understanding of who's in our community, what we do and who we work with, and explored our collective aims and aspirations for the community at large.

We'de like to use findings form the survey to shape our work and continue the conversation about where science communicaiton is today and where we can take it in the future. 

Who are science communicators?

If you've spent any time on mailing lists like Psci-comm, you'll know that our community is passionate about diversity, jumping at almost every opportunity to discuss it - including in terms of  location, gender and ethnicity. So what are science communicators actually like?

We found that, compared to the average person in the UK, we're more likely to call London (26%), the South West (14%) or Scotland (11%) home, whilst on the other end of the scale the Midlands (10%), Northwest (7%) and Yorkshire and the Humber (4%) appear particularly under-represented.

These imbalances raise some interesting dilemmas. For instance, should we spread training and networking events proportionally to demand, or utilise them to bring the science communicators to under-represented areas?

We also found science communicators are around twice as likely to be female than male. Is this a problem, or could it be an asset? You might argue that we need more female communicators to help challenge gender stereotypes in STEM and increase the science capital amongst younger female audiences. The action we want to take is partly dictated by what we think science communication is for.

What do Science communicators need?

As part of the survey, we had a free-text area as well as our formal tick-box questions. In our experience, the opportunity to give detailed feedback through these boxes is often ignored as people make a mad dash to the end of the survey.

So we were delighted to find that, in this survey, people took the time to write down an impressive array of insight and ideas. Of the 516 people who took part, over 300 offered their thoughts on what science communicators needs for the future. 

One third saw improving the connectivity both within the field and other sectors as the biggest future need for science communicators. Many respondents were also keen to see more recognition and funding for the sector (29%) and for standards to improve through better sharing of information and training (20%).  

Standards, recognition and connectivity are of course inter-dependent, and ignoring one would limit the progress that can be made in the others. A key question for the BSA, and for the community at large, is how we can use the talent and commitment already within our sector to meet those needs.

These findings will be the basis of our future work. We're planning training programs, creative sharing platforms, and the development of networking hubs around the country. Science communicators have a key role to play in shaping all of these activities, and we need them to continue to encourage, critique and guide us.

Read, discuss and get in touch

We see this research as just first step of an ongoing conversation with the science communication and public engagement communities. We hope its findings will help to identify opportunities, provoke new ideas, and pose difficult questions.

How - if at all - should we address the geographic and demographic imbalances amongst science communicators? Does it need more professional standards? Should it even be called science communication?

These are some of the questions that sprang to our minds, but we're sure that you have more - we'd love to hear them.

Read the full report
Join our tweetchat from 12.00-13.00 on Friday 19 February, where we will be joined by specialists from across the sector to discuss the issues important to the community.
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