Dissemination or participation? Exploring scientists’ definitions and science communication goals in the Netherlands

Adina Nerghes*, Bob Mulder, Ju Sung Lee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
23 Downloads (Pure)


The field of science communication has grown considerably over the past decade, and so have the number of scientific writings on what science communication is and how it should be practiced. The multitude of theoretisations and models has led to a lack of clarity in defining science communication, and to a highly popularised—and theorised—rhetorical shift from deficit to dialogue and participation. With this study, we aim to remediate the absence of research into what science communication is, for scientists themselves. We also investigate whether the transition towards dialogue and participation is reflected in the goals scientists identify as important to their science communication efforts, both in a general and a social media context. For this, we analyse survey data collected from scientists in the Netherlands using thematic qualitative analysis and statistical analysis. Our results reveal six main dimensions of science communication as defined by our respondents. The 584 definitions we analyse demonstrate a focus on a one-way process of transmission and translation of scientific results and their impacts towards a lay audience, via mostly traditional media channels, with the goals of making science more accessible, of educating audiences, and of raising awareness about science. In terms of the goals identified as most important by scientists in the Netherlands, we find goals aligned with the deficit and dialogue models of science communication to be the most important. Overall, our findings suggest we should be cautious in the face of recent claims that we live in a new era of dialogue, transparency, and participation in the realm of science communication.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0277677
Pages (from-to)1-29
Number of pages29
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright: © 2022 Nerghes et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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