Brazilian institutions are the ones that most disseminate science around the...

Brazilian institutions are the ones that most disseminate science around the...
Brazilian institutions are the ones that most disseminate science around the...

Brazil is the country that most disseminates science in its public educational institutions, such as universities and research centers, and also the one that most uses social networks as a means of scientific dissemination.

The frequency of science communication actions in the country – including traditional media, public events and social networks – is almost three times that of Japan, and above the global average. European countries “tied” in this regard – there was little or no difference.

The data are the result of a study published in the scientific journal PlosONE by researchers from several countries, including a Brazilian, Luisa Massarani, coordinator of the National Institute of Public Communication of Science and Technology at Fiocruz.

The study evaluated 2,030 institutions in Brazil, the United States, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Portugal and Japan. The inclusion of these countries followed the guidelines of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) for research and global statistics, thus ensuring methodological validity to the study. Data were collected between June 2017 and May 2018.

To assess how scientific dissemination is carried out in the institutions, the researchers sent forms to the directors or persons responsible for the dissemination area of ​​the participating centers.

In the form, there were questions such as the frequency of science communication actions (on a scale of 0 to 100%) and which are the main means of dissemination used. The scientists also analyzed the size of the institutions, as measured by the body of researchers, and the annual budget for research.

The global analysis of the data showed that, on average, universities are more engaged in spreading science through public events (such as activities in schools and theme weeks) and traditional media compared to social media.

But the researchers found a strong correlation between the institutes that most disseminated through traditional media were also more active on social networks.

“Our expectation was that the use of social networks would be greater than that found. But we understand that, in the institutions that use more both traditional media and social networks, this is more due to a greater investment in scientific dissemination of the institute, with training in human resources, than the size of the institution “, says Marta Entradas, a researcher at the Instituto Universitário de Lisboa and first author of the study.

In the case of Brazil, the reported frequency of using daily or weekly by institutions was 40%, the highest value found among all countries. This is also the approximate amount of disclosure on official websites of the institutions (38%). About 20% reported using Twitter and only 10% science blogs.

For Massarani, advertising on social networks can be done at lower costs, which is an advantage for smaller institutions, with fewer resources available. “But having a diversity of actions, of different types and costs, is essential to consolidate a scientific culture in our country, with different objectives and perspectives.”

Also according to the survey, most of the population seeks to seek information about science in traditional media, which reflects the low adherence in social networks of public institutions. In European countries, about 10% reported using social networks to search for science and technology information.

Another interesting piece of research is how the dissemination is concentrated, in general, in a fraction of the institutions (30%) that most practice scientific dissemination.

The selection of institutions followed a stratified methodology differentiated in each country, preventing the size of the country, in geographic terms, from influencing the data.

In the case of Brazil, the public institutions listed in Inep (National Institute of Educational Studies and Research), the research centers linked to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovations (MCTI) and also the 50 universities listed as the best in the country were selected in the Times Higher Education ranking and in the RUF (Folha University Ranking).

Crossing all these criteria, a total of 945 institutions were reached, of which 169 answered the questionnaire. In Italy, 366 institutions were included, in Germany, 358, and in Japan, 321. All of these countries had lower performance in communication than Brazil.

The main obstacle for scientific dissemination in Brazil is the lack of resources, says Massarani. However, the survey results reflect “efforts that have taken place since 2004 to encourage disclosure”. The researcher cites the creation of a sector in the then Ministry of Science and Technology dedicated to the popularization of science, which brought important actions, such as the National Week of Science and Technology. “Unfortunately, the sector has been reduced in recent years and, despite the scientific culture that has been established, it is important to maintain the economic support and stimulus that existed.”

Although science communication has been evaluated mainly from within institutions, there is a growing movement of science disseminators in the country, especially of young researchers who launch themselves in independent channels of dissemination.

For Yurij Castelfranchi, physicist by training, professor in the sociology department at UFMG and coordinator of the specialization course in public communication of science (Amerek), who did not participate in the study, there is an idea that Brazil is “lagging behind” in scientific dissemination. However, science communication in Brazil comes out of the “square” stereotype of traditional institutions, the so-called European standard, and approaches the community and younger audiences.

For him, the Brazilian academic community has made disclosure with half or no incentives.

“Both the population and the institutions use social networks and this brings the public closer together, makes the scientist closer to the people. An [Universidade de] Cambridge thinks six times before appearing on Facebook. There is a great wave of young scientist disseminators that I think is fantastic ”, he concludes.

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