Aims, objectives and results of an innovative project in Science Communication

by Giuseppe D’Angelo

The foundations on which the development of the SCI-CO+ Project has been implanted are presented. Starting from the reference scenario and the needs identified, the priorities and themes addressed, and the expected results are described.

Scenario and Needs

As a result of the Sars Cov 2 pandemic, the need for easily and immediately accessible resources for production, information and knowledge has increased exponentially, worldwide and, above all, at European level. In addition to the general areas of work and education, the effects of the Pandemic have manifested themselves strongly in the area of communication of cultural heritage and knowledge, which includes the sector of Science Communication (SciCo).

Perhaps, the biggest limitation manifested by the SciCo sector was that of not being able to make available, even partially, in virtual and remote contexts its communication solutions. This limit has not been determined by a structural deficiency of the sector, because with the evolution of ICT also the Science Museums (MS) and the Science Centres (SC) have evolved in terms of quality and technological richness of their Installations, but for their prerogative to rely on “physical places” of relationship with their users, in particular: citizens and, above all, students. Obviously this prerogative is not a criticality in itself, on the contrary: it is quite clear that the sectors that are based on “representation” have their specificity precisely in being real places where the interaction between “installation” and “public” must be as active and direct as possible (the SC have evolved over time precisely to make the phenomena of science and technology increasingly alive matter, experienceable, “touchable”). La criticità è nel fatto che alla maggior parte dei MS e deli SC essi è mancata la possibilità di “trasportare” a distanza la propria straordinaria capacità di comunicare in presenza. This difficulty of adapting to the production and digital transmission of knowledge has been experienced, since the late 80s, also by the wide area of education and training; this was due to the structural limits of schools, universities and professional training institutions to make the transition to e-Learning technologies, which were certainly complex at the time but today, instead, absolutely mature and widely applied thanks to twenty years of ad hoc experiments and developments..

The SciCo sector needs to make the same cultural and technological leap.

The realization of MS and SC that are in whole or in part usable in a virtual context requires, first of all, a different way of “thinking” SciCo and, immediately after, the identification of innovative methodologies and techniques and, therefore, skills to design and implement digital experiences of science communication. Instead, we had this transition process in Scientific Fiction (SciFi), which introduced methodological and technological innovations in “science fiction cinema and science documentaries”, providing authors, screenwriters, directors of this type of movies, enormous possibilities to represent and tell the future and to tell science. Obviously in the case of SciFi the advantage was to start from a type of communication in which users are simply “spectators”.

Even before posing problems of an economic nature, “thinking” in an advanced way the process of scientific communication means substantially adapting the knowledge and skills of the sector. To transport into a virtual world experiences of material reality, a process that goes precisely by the name of Digital Transition, it is necessary to assume, within the organizations of the sector, a different approach to SciCo. New paradigms, models, methods, techniques and, with them, new professional skills for the “Advanced” Communication of Science (SciCo+) are necessary to become “accessible and consolidated practice” not only in the SciCo sector but also in adjacent sectors, such as Training and Education sector and in University sector, with their respective missions in the field of teaching-learning of science and scientific and technological dissemination.


The answer of SCI-CO+

The SCI-CO+ project, funded by the Erasmus+ Programme to a partnership of eight organisations from five European countries (Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Romania and Sweden) was created to respond to these structural needs with a broad and integrated solution.

General information about the Project can be found in the portal at the address from which a rich brochure can be downloaded. In this article, however, we will deepen the founding themes of the initiative.

The SCI-CO+ Project responds, in particular, to a specific horizontal priority of the Programme: “addressing digital transformation with the development of digital readiness, resilience and capabilities“.

This priority was introduced in the critical period of the COVID-19 pandemic when it became clear that the definitive consolidation of the digital knowledge and skills for citizens, students, workers and organisations could no longer be postponed for European society. Implementing a broad process of Digital Transition has therefore become a “categorical imperative”. Distance Learning and Smart-Working practices have assumed an absolute centrality, unimaginable until a few years ago.

SCI-CO+ fits into this context with an ambitious overall goal divided into three parts:

(1) identify an innovative model of science communication (named “e-SciCo”) based on the use of the most advanced solutions offered by ICT, in particular the Web 2.0 technologies, and introduce specific methodologies for the conception, design, development and implementation of “remote” scientific communication experiences based on this model;

(2) design new highly specialized professional profiles for the sector and sets of new skills for the updating of operators in the science communication sector, university scientific researchers and the teachers on STEM subjects;

(3) implement a technological-organizational system (called SCI-CO+ SYSTEM), to: (a) disseminate the Sci-Co+ model; (b) make accessible and usable all the products made by the Project; (c) manage a large and active community of practice for training, cooperative work and professional sharing in the field of science communication.”


Model and Methods for the transition

The Project is based on the most advanced paradigm that today characterizes the digital transition processes and that in the current language is identified by the “Smart” prefix (or, sometimes, by the suffix “+“) which refers to the use of ICT applications of the so-called Web 2.0 – Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Holography, 3D Printing, Advanced Computer Graphics, Advanced Video Computing, Internet of Things.

Based on this paradigm, the Project will develop an Advanced Science Communication Model (e-SciCo), which will allow to classify all the knowledge, processes and strategies of a science communication based on the use of technologies of the Smart paradigm (+), as well as introduce a language contextual to facilitate its application. We want to emphasize that the e-SciCo Model will not exclude the “physical” dimension of scientific communication but will harmonize it within a general context in which the “virtual” and the “physical” dimensions can coexist within the same organization and the same communication processes. To make an analogy, let’s think of the current SmartWorking practices in which the enabling technologies used by the workers allow an easy transferability of work practice from the “physical” dimension, face-to-face work in the office, to the “virtual” dimension, remote work.

To make the e-SciCo Model applicable, three specific Operating Methodologies will be developed. As is well known, starting from a given paradigm, each of its application models cannot be used unless suitable methodologies are identified that allow its use in the reference context. In our case these methodologies must allow the development of science communication initiatives, both in Museums of Science and in Science Centres.

In general, a science communication initiative includes a design phase, a storytelling phase, and an implementation phase of the installations necessary for that communication. In a “traditional” context, these three phases are well-defined and consolidated production processes, both for elementary installations and for complex and articulated initiatives. The SCI-CO+ Project will develop three similar Methodologies aimed at implementing SciCo+ initiatives. These three methodologies have been assigned the following names:

  • eSciCo Design and Planning
  • eSciCo Scripting
  • eSciCo Development

They will be defined by identifying the set of knowledge, techniques, procedures, strategies, tools useful for the three phases of conception-design, storyboarding-narration and development-implementation.


Skills and innovative figures

On the basis of these important theoretical and methodological foundations, the Project will face its second phase: the training phase. We must not forget that Erasmus+ is the European Union Programme in the fields of Education, Training, Youth and Sport.

Therefore, in the second phase the Project will work to transform the theoretical foundations and the methods and techniques developed on the basis of the Smart Paradigm in the first phase, into as many advanced professional skills. On the basis of an on-desk research process and an on-field operational survey involving representatives of stakeholders in the reference sectors, three New Professional Figures will be designed, named:

  • Sci-Co Advanced System and Project Leader
  • Expert in Authoring and Design of Advanced Sci-Co Materials
  • Advanced Expert in Sci-Co Storytelling


These figures will be the “experts” in the application of the three methodologies of the e-SciCo Model. Each of them will cover the professional domain of one of the development phases of SciCo+ initiatives and will be developed on the basis of a specific set of indicators and a set of knowledge, competences and abilities, which will constitute its Skills. Of each of these figures we give a brief description below:

  • Sci-Co Advanced System and Project Leader, medium-high level professional expert in the management of science communication Organizations, in particular Science Museums and Science Centres and in the conception, design and implementation of science communication initiative. He is competent in the development of an entire science and technology communication project, from the conception phase to the planning, development and implementation phases, based on the strategy of the e-SciCo Model and, in particular, of the eSciCo Design and Planning Methodology.
  • Expert in Authoring and Design of Advanced Sci-Co Materials, medium-high technician expert in the design and development of environments and materials based on the application of the eSciCo Development Methodology.
  • Advanced Expert in Sci-Co Storytelling, medium-high professional with a skill characterized by specific competences in the field of scripts and texts for scientific narration based on the innovations of the e-SciCo Model and, in particular, of the strategies and techniques made available by the eSciCo Scripting Methodology.


These profiles will be built through an action-research process with the involvement of the different categories of stakeholders in the Science Communication sector.


Training and Updating

For each of them, three curricula of post-graduate master’s will be developed to train these professional figures:

  • the curriculum of the Master for Sci-Co Advanced System and Project Leader will be aimed at graduates in Communication Disciplines,
  • the curriculum of the Master for Expert in Authoring and Design of Advanced Sci-Co Materials will be aimed at graduates in Computer Science and Computer Engineering,
  • the curriculum of the Master for Advanced Expert in Sci-Co Storytelling will be aimed at graduates in technical and scientific disciplines.


In addition, three professional upskilling courses will be developed for the people that already work in the field of science communication but also in the teaching of scientific and technological subjects in high school and in the scientific research. These courses will be aimed at:

  • Operators of Science Museums and Science Centre;
  • University researchers in science and technology;
  • High school teachers of scientific and technical subjects, in particular STEM. including educational programs, materials and teaching aids.


The SCI-CO+ System

To make all this usable, the SCI-CO+ Project develops an articulated technological-organizational system called SCI-CO+ SYSTEM based on a set of enabling technologies for communication, connection, cooperative work, education and training (the Sci-Co+ Platform). The Sci-Co+ Platform will be accessible through a “Service Portal“, which can be accessed from the Sci-Co+ Portal. Through this platform:

  • the Specialization and upskilling courses developed by Sci-Co+ will be provided,
  • the Advanced community and networking services will be made available to users.


From the point of view of the education and training processes applied, the Sci-Co+ System is inspired by cutting-edge scientific methods and will make it possible to make the most advanced paradigms for the realization of “intelligent” remote learning and work processes real and usable, which we can define, with a neologism, “Smart LearningWorking” processes. These processes are carried out through environments called KMCIS, Knowledge Management Systems and Collective Intelligence. One of the limitations of e-Learning is its difficulty in using non-formal and informal learning processes within training pathways, particularly in training and vocational education pathways. The KMCI Paradigm allows to build a new model of distance learning-training that introduces the “collective dimension” into the processes of distance learning. This dimension presupposes that the learners do not belong only to a “structured Class” but to an “organized Community” and are not only immersed in teaching-learning processes but also in training-on-the-job activities.

The need for such advanced solutions emerged in all its necessity when, at the outbreak of the pandemic, vocational education and training systems in Italy and Europe had to clash, on the one hand, with the lack of precisely this type of infrastructure and methodologies and, on the other, with the need to place millions of learners (pupils, students, learners) and operators (teachers, professors, trainers, tutors, technicians) in e-Learning and e-working. Just as companies and organizations have had to do to put millions of workers on telecommuting.

The Sci-Co+ Platform will be accessible through a Dashboard (Service Portal), will allow: the provision of the SCI-CO+ Training Offer as well as access to advanced community and networking services aimed not only to create highly innovative learning contexts but also to share experiences, discussing the results of the Project and building new shared knowledge on all the topics of interest.

They will compose the Sci-Co+ Platform: an e-Learning Management System, for distance learning; an e-Stage Management System, for the realization in Smart-Working of apprenticeship phases; a Virtual Didactic Laboratory, for the simulation of a virtual MS and SC, on which to practice the Sci-Co+ students; an e-library, for the management of editorial content; a Wiki Repository. for the collection of wiki pages on subjects of interest created by users and students; a Networking Infrastructure, for the development of the Community of Practice and Cooperative Work.

We will dedicate the NEWS FROM SCI-CO+

SCI-CO+ SYSTEM – Conceptual Macronodes
SCI-CO+ – Conceptual Macronodes

1 | 2023 October-December

Welcome! by Riccardo Villari
Makers and scientists by Alfonso Molina and Mirta Michilli
Green in the Lab by Anna Gunnarsson
Città della Scienza by Luigi Amodio and Alessandra Drioli
Science communication in the digital age by Dario De Notaris and Rosanna Marino
An overview by Giuseppe D’Angelo