Coalition-Building for Science Communication

Coalition-building as a path toward more effective science communication practices.

by Jena Barchas-LichtensteinElliott BowenEd GreeneMelina Sherman
Apr 14, 2023

Science communication has traditionally been seen as a one-way street – that is, as a process in which experts disseminate the results of their research to non-experts. As numerous theorists and researchers have pointed out, this is a deficit-based model, in that it assumes that the public is "uninformed" and "ignorant" – that they're blank slates that need to be filled in through the knowledge experts provide. To break with this problematic model, communication scholars today advocate for knowledge co-production and participatory action research, which actively involve members of the public in things like research design, hypothesis testing, the gathering and analyzing of data, etc.

At the "Science Talk '23" conference organized by the Association of Science Communicators, we hosted a panel discussion dedicated to exploring the role that coalitions can play in helping us advance toward these goals. Called "Coalition-Building for Science Communication," the panel was moderated by Knology writing and communications manager Dr. Elliott Bowen, and brought together Knology media research lead Dr. Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein, Knology wellbeing research lead Dr. Melina Sherman, and Knology research fellow Dr. Ed Greene. During the discussion, each researcher shared examples of how coalition-building informs their work.

Want to know what coalition-building looks like, and how coalitions work? Interested in learning about some of the challenges involved in creating these, or in understanding what makes coalitions beneficial and how they can lead to more effective science communication practices? Our conversation revealed that by bringing together people with diverse expertise, by fostering a more nuanced understanding of scientific problems, and through methods of mutual care, coalition-building can help overcome a number of pressing science communication challenges. Key themes from our panel included:

  • Care and compassion as methodological principles
  • Coalition-building as integral to the practice of effective science communication
  • Repositioning the burden of responsibility by shifting from "trust" to "trustworthiness"

For more insight on these things, check out the recording of our panel, which you can watch below. And click here for a transcript of our conversation.

Coalition-building is a core part of our identity as a research-to-practice organization. By building coalitions with individuals and organizations across our different areas of research, we help partners in various sectors advance practical, evidence-based interventions in response to some of the key challenges of contemporary life.

Photo by Nick Fewings @ Unsplash

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