Research in Science communication in Latin America

RedPOP, the science communication network for Latin America and the Caribbean, and collaborators, carried a study aiming to identify the papers on science communication published by academic journals written by authors in the region and/or about the region. After analyzing 609 papers, we show some trends of research in sci comm in the region:

  • Brazil is, by far, the leader in the ranking of the highest number of papers published on studies in sci comm in the region. This may have been partly due to the fact that the academic production is possibly in fact greater in Brazil, as expressed in other areas of knowledge, due to the size of the research community and of the budget dedicated to the sector (although the political and economic crisis has been dramatically decreasing it). Another factor that would explain this difference in the number of papers in comparison to other countries can refer to academic practices: there is evidence suggesting that the sci comm academic community in countries such as Mexico, Argentina and Colombia focuses their publication in books and book chapters, which were not analyzed in our project.
  • However, other factors may have influenced the large number of Brazilian papers in our corpus, for example, the fact that Brazilian journals in all areas of knowledge have good visibility, consequence of policies and initiatives that, over the last decades, aimed to give visibility to the Brazilian scientific production, for example by strengthening the national scientific publications, through support to free access and implementation of dedicated sites. Other countries in the region have also implemented important actions in this direction, but perhaps the impact of such initiatives in sci comm research has been smaller. In this regard, we recommend increasing the visibility of the sci comm academic research outlets, for example, by creating open and free access sites with this goal.
  • Evidences indicate that the collaboration between groups and between countries of Latin America in sci comm is reduced. Considering that collaboration among the different emerging groups in the region would be very beneficial for the whole community, we recommend creating strategies for stimulating collaborations in the region and internationally.
  • Our data indicate that studies in science comm are concentrated in mass media, followed by science museums/centers. This is justified by the maturity existing in studies in mass communication in Latin America and the importance that science museums/centers have gained in the region in the interface between science and society. On the other hand, there are important gaps in sci comm research in the region. A gap observed was studies on public perception of science and technology (S&T) and on the publics to whom the sci comm activities are target to. If we do not understand better how people make sense and meaning from the different initiatives that are part of the scientific culture, we will not in fact go further in sci comm practice and research. Our study also shows a significant gap of studies on Internet and social media (such as Facebook and Twitter), which implies both in methodological challenges and opportunities. Therefore, we recommend that more attention is given to research in other areas of the interface between science and society, without reducing efforts for understanding, from the academic point of view, the relation between science and mass communication and science and science museums/centers.
  • A remarkable growth in the number of papers in sci comm is observed in Latin America since the 1980s, suggesting a strengthening of sci comm research in in the last decade, also expressed in the creation of more postgraduate courses in the region. However, some fragility in terms of the methodologies used in the papers collected is observed. For example, we observed a predominance of research using content analysis and discourse analysis, which are obviously important, but a greater diversity of approaches would enrich the field. Qualitative analysis predominates in the used methodologies; the more often approaches used are case study, study of documents, use of questionnaire and bibliographic studies, evidencing the need to provide more tools for researchers in the region explore greater methodological diversity. We recommend the consolidation of a greater number of long-term programs (masters and doctorates) and short-term training courses for researchers, which can offer more tools to think creatively about academic studies in sci comm.
  • Accessibility in science museums/centers and sci comm activities should be highlighted as a fragility in the field in Latin America. It seems to exist reasonable consensus about its importance and the existence of some sensitivity in the region regarding its implementation, for example, as expressed in documents such as the United Nations Organization and the OAS, ratified by many Latin American countries and the laws stablished in some of these countries. However, the effective implementation of accessibility strategies walks with slower pace. Also limited is the number of studies on accessibility and sci comm, which would allow the development of better bases for reflection in the field.

For more information, read: PATINO, M. L. ; PADILLA, Jorge ; MASSARANI, Luisa . Diagnóstico de la Divulgación de la Ciencia en América Latina: Una mirada a la práctica en el campo. 1. ed. Ciudad de México: Fibonacci e RedPOP, 2017. v. 1. 144p., in Spanish, available at http://bit.ly/2vMYMgX

 

1 thought on “Research in Science communication in Latin America”

  1. Thanks Luisa.

    There’s another paper analysing science communication research in Brazil by Barata, Caldas et al, and it shared some (at least) of your conclusions. I’ve copied the abstract below.

    “Science communication has emerged as a new field over the last 50 years, and its progress has been marked by a rise in jobs, training courses, research, associations, conferences and publications. This paper describes science communication internationally and the trends and challenges it faces, before looking at the national level. We have documented science communication activities in Brazil, the training courses, research, financial support and associations/societies. By analyzing the publication of papers, dissertations and theses we have tracked the growth of this field, and compared the level of activity in Brazil with other countries. Brazil has boosted its national research publications since 2002, with a bigger contribution from postgraduate programs in education and communication, but compared to its national research activity Brazil has only a small international presence in science communication. The language barrier, the tradition of publishing in national journals and the solid roots in education are some of the reasons for that. Brazil could improve its international participation, first by considering collaborations within Latin America. International publication is dominated by the USA and the UK. There is a need to take science communication to the next level by developing more sophisticated tools for conceptualizing and analyzing science communication, and Brazil can be part of that.”

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