The British Science Association (BSA) has published A Changing Sector: Where is science communication now? This report is a snapshot of the science communication and public engagement sector in the UK today. We think this sector is crucial to ensuring science is open and accessible to everyone in the UK, whether they are a scientist or not.

This is the first time that we have surveyed people from across the sector, from different subjects, disciplines and organisations within science communication, from researchers who do science communication in addition to their regular work, to full time professional science communicators.

The results reveal a fascinating picture of who science communicators are, what they do, and what their vision is for the future of science communication. It also reveals some of the challenges the sector faces, and we look forward to working with this engaged and passionate community to solve them. 

Key findings

We have created an infographic of some of the main findings of our survey

Here are some key findings and questions raised by the report:

There are some key hubs in the UK for science communication and public engagement

London (26%), South West England (14%) and Scotland (11%) each had a higher percentage of science communicators than would be expected for their population.

The science communication sector is not representative of society

We compared the demographics of science communicators to national data. Respondents were more likely to be female (66%), educated to Masters level (49%) and the majority were aged between 25-44 (68%). There was no statistical difference in ethnicity compared with national data (88% white), however, when geographical clusters of activity were accounted for, the sector cannot be considered representative of the diversity of the UK.

Science communicators want to change the way the world sees science, but not change the world

Respondents were driven by making science part of culture (39%), and keeping the public informed about science (27%). Relatively few were driven by making science more democratic (14%), suggesting that wider societal change and equity is a low priority for the science engagement sector.

Many science communicators do unpaid work 

The majority (66%) are doing unpaid work. The most common unpaid activities are research, writing, and supporting volunteers. 

Is science communication the right name?

There was no clear consensus on how people described their sector – roughly equal proportions of survey respondents classed themselves as working in education (30%), science communication (29%) and public engagement (21%).

Should there be an official body for science communicators?

The majority of respondents (55%) believed the sector should become more professionalised through an official body, but there was also strong opposition to this approach (45%).

Moving the sector forward – connectivity, recognition and standards

Respondents’ suggestions for moving the sector forward fell into three main categories. Better connectivity between science communicators, and with those outside the sector was most common (33%). Many respondents were also keen to see more recognition for public engagement (29%) and for standards to improve through better sharing of information and training (20%). Our interviews showed that in practice, these issues are interlinked.

Download the full report Download the infographic

Tell us what you think

We’re excited about working with the community to address some of the challenges this report reveals, and are keen to hear from science communicators what shape they think the solutions should take.

Take part in our Tweetchat at 12pm on Friday 19 February, using the #scicommfuture hashtag, or contact the Cultural Development team, if you want to discuss an opportunity or idea in more detail.