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Science Communication

Science is an important cornerstone of society and democracy. Different subsystems of society - whether politics, the media or the economy - benefit from the constant increase in knowledge that science generates on the basis of methodologically verifiable findings.
It is only in the exchange between the systems that scientific knowledge can be used to make decisions, contribute to problem solving and achieve progress. Frequently, science is assigned the responsibility of making generated knowledge publicly available; on the one hand to enable critical reflection and testability, and on the other hand to inform and enlighten society and, on this basis, to enable dialogue as well as participation. The fact that such activities are also accompanied by unintended side effects - such as a change in the scientific work logic away from the original production of knowledge towards a strategic science oriented purely towards economic preservation - is all too often neglected by researchers. The research at the chair of Communication and Media Studies I is especially dedicated to these unintended consequences and investigates to what extent professionalized science communication entails functional as well as dysfunctional consequences on the micro-, meso- and macro-level.


Two sides of the same coin: Public trust in science and scientists‘ trust in the public (PTS/STP)

10/2021 – 09/2024

Externally funded research project

German Research Foundation [Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)]

In the current Corona pandemic, science and individual scientists have become the focus of media attention. They are consulted for political decisions, have laid the foundations for protective measures against the virus and have critically examined them within certain disciplines. In addition to respectful treatment of scientists, however, hostility and threats against individual researchers have also become publicly visible. These range from questioning scientific statements to threats of violence. Science has become a source of polarization in times of Corona: On the one hand, the population shouts "Listen to science", on the other hand, there is talk of the "lockdown makers" and conspiracy ideologists demonstrate against members of the scientific community. In this sense, the project focuses on the question of whether and to what extent the pandemic may have changed the relationship between science and society. The project is divided into two sub-projects, which look at the scientists on the one hand and the public on the other. The Heinrich-Heine-University takes the point of view of the scientists: Is there a corona effect on the willingness of scientists to expose themselves publicly (in the media)? In other words, has the trust of scientists in public, especially in journalism and media, changed due to the Corona pandemic? In order to explore this trust relationship, the research team first conducts a survey with scientists from different disciplines and, in a second step, explores these results in more depth through guided interviews. On the other hand, the research team at the University of Mannheim, led by Prof. Dr. Matthias Kohring, is investigating a possible Corona effect on the public's trust in science. Members of different population groups, including conspiracy ideologists, supporters of science and skeptics, will be interviewed for this purpose and subsequently the trust in science will be explored more intensively through focus groups. Accordingly, the project explores the impact of the Corona pandemic on the mutual trust relationship between the public and science.

Prof. Dr. Frank Marcinkowski, Dr. Sarah Kohler, Hella de Haas

In cooperation with Prof. Dr. Matthias Kohring (University of Mannheim)

Media in the view of science [working title]

10/2021 – expected 2025

Dissertation project


In order to make informed decisions, people depend on scientific knowledge. The role of the media as a mediator between science and society is essential. Since scientists and journalists operate in different social systems, the communication between them and the correct and comprehensible communication of scientific knowledge has already been extensively studied. Fears on the part of scientists of a misrepresentation of themselves and their findings have become clear. What has not been understood so far, however, is the image that scientists from different disciplines have of "the media". This image can be based on their own experiences, on the mediation of colleagues, and is individually constructed. The aim of the dissertation project is to uncover existing perceptions of researchers about the media system and media organizations and to investigate how these perceptions can influence the willingness to interact with media and to expose oneself publicly. In doing so, disciplinary differences are anticipated, which are present due to previous experiences with media or professional knowledge about the media system.

Hella de Haas

Organisational Public Engagement with Science and Technology (OPEN)

09/2018 – 11/2022

Externally funded research project

Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT)

The OPEN project focuses on a standardized survey of press officers at academic universities in four European countries (Portugal, Italy, the United Kingdom and Germany). The research is guided by the so-called decentralization thesis, according to which the activities of the central communication departments of universities are increasingly flanked by their own efforts at public communication with non-scientific publics by subordinate organizational levels (faculties, departments, institutes). The project is interested in forms and consequences of functional differentiation of public communication of universities as well as in intra-organizational tensions and conflicts that might result from it.

Project website: open-science.my-free.website/open

Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Marta Entradas (Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, Portugal)

PIs of country studies: Prof. Dr. Frank Marcinkowski (HHU Düsseldorf, Germany), Prof. Dr. Martin Bauer (London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom), Prof. Dr. Giuseppe Pellegrini (Observa Science in Society, Italy)

Mobilisation of Resources for Public Engagement with science and technology (MORE-PE)

2016 – 2020

Completed externally funded research project

Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT)

The completed MORE-PE project focused on the culture of public engagement at research institutions within universities and large research organizations. The project aimed to compile a comparable database on aspects of public engagement at the institutional level in ten countries: Portugal, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Taiwan, Japan, and Brazil.

Project website: https://open-science.my-free.website/more-pe

Principal Investigators: Prof. Dr. Marta Entradas (Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, Portugal), Prof. Dr. Martin Bauer (London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom)

PIs of country studies: Prof. Dr. Frank Marcinkowski (HHU Düsseldorf, Germany), Prof. Dr. Giuseppe Pellegrini (Observa Science in Society, Italy), Prof. Dr. Pedro Russo (Leiden University, Netherlands); Prof. Dr. Jon Besley (Michigan State University, USA) as well as affiliated project partners from Japan, Taiwan and Brazil.

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