Grants for science in society projects

This picture shows a group of people at a scientific exhibition. © SNSF

In 2013, the SNSF issued its third annual call for science communication projects targeted at public audiences. The first of the 49 projects supported to date were completed last year. They reveal a strong motivation on the part of researchers in Switzerland to engage with a larger public. (Source: Annual Report 2013)

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questions such as these illustrate the many societal and cultural implications science has. This has prompted the launch in 2011 of the Agora funding scheme, which supports science communication projects with the public. Until now, 49 projects have been funded to the tune of around CHF 7.5 million, with seven of them being completed in 2013.

Two-way dialogue

The 164 grant proposals received in response to the first three annual calls confirm the strong interest and motivation of researchers to engage in dialogue with the public about their work and its implications. In order to better reach their target audience, project teams often include individuals with different kinds of expertise, partnering researchers with communication specialists, science explainers, teachers or artists. Beyond the promotion of knowledge about scientific research, the scheme was created to foster dialogue. For this reason, the SNSF Commission for Communication Projects selected projects based on their ability to trigger two-way interactions between scientists and the public, opening up opportunities for the public to question and participate in the research process.

The experience gained in the initial projects has shown that creating room for two-way dialogue is crucial and fruitful. The places and tools chosen to engage the target groups are very diverse: the public comes to where research is done, or scientists bring their research to classrooms, theatres, community centres or public parks; specific strategies are also developed to trigger dialogue online. Last but not least, the teams are evaluating their projects to gain a critical overview of their activities in view of the initially defined objectives.