Press release

Between Preprint and Shitstorm

Latest issue of the Humboldt Kosmos magazine on the state of science communication in a time of pandemics and climate change

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Magazine Humboldt Kosmos

Between Preprint and Shitstorm

The Earth is getting warmer. The Covid-19 virus is rife. Disorder in global politics continues: When contexts are complex, answers are uncertain and concerns are  abundant, the need for science to provide explanations and offer solutions is greater than ever. Good science communication is called for here – and yet so difficult. The latest issue of the Humboldt Kosmos magazine explores why this is and what can be done about it.

Science communication operates between two poles that could not be more disparate. On the one hand, scientific literacy – the fundamental understanding of science – has undoubtedly increased during the pandemic. The specifics of the individual types of vaccines or viral mutations have long been of interest to more than just experts. At the same time, scepticism about scientific findings and political measures for dealing with enormous global challenges like climate change and pandemics is growing. It is increasingly difficult to interest large segments of the population in politics, science and traditional media, whereas conspiracy theories circulate freely in the filter bubbles of social media.

How do researchers from the Humboldt Foundation’s network – who live and conduct research in a wide variety of countries – deal with these challenges? How can good science communication be successful despite all circumstances? These questions are the focus of the latest issue of Kosmos, the magazine published by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. This issue also delves into the question of how some of science’s communication problems are possibly self-made and takes a look at the political parameters, time frames and the financial constraints researchers actually have to deal with in their communication work. As the Humboldt Foundation’s President Hans-Christian Pape explains in Kosmos: “The division of labour in our society tasks science with providing the best possible knowledge available. It should not behave as though it had oven-ready solutions to every problem but must openly admit to uncertainties. It must refrain from promising society any kind of panacea – that leads, on the one hand, to science making excessive demands on itself and, on the other, to an excess of hope and expectations.”

The entire “Communicating Science. Between Preprint and Shitstorm” issue of the Humboldt Kosmos is available here. In addition, readers can take our online Fake News Quiz to see how good they are at distinguishing between genuine and invented headlines.

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Humboldt Communication Lab
Summer School „Communicating Science“

This issue is just one of the Humboldt Foundation’s numerous undertakings revolving around science communication; the Foundation has made interaction and exchange with the public one of its strategic focal topics because science and research have a number of responsibilities that include engaging in dialogue with society. The Humboldt Foundation seeks this dialogue using of various formats for science communication such as the Humboldt Communication Lab for Exchange between Research and Media and the International Summer School „Communicating Science“.

(Press release 26/2021)

Every year, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation enables more than 2,000 researchers from all over the world to spend time conducting research in Germany. The Foundation maintains an interdisciplinary network of well over 30,000 Humboldtians in more than 140 countries around the world – including 61 Nobel Prize winners.

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