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Experiences of the SCI-CO+ Consortium

by Dario De Notaris and Rosanna Marino

The article provides an overview of science and technology communication methods using digital tools, particularly Web 2.0 and Web 3.0, adopted by members of the Sci-Co+ Consortium, based on the analysis of 24 case studies.

As a result of the Sars Cov-2 pandemic, the need for information and knowledge has exponentially increased at both the European and global levels, as well as the demand for easily and immediately accessible technological resources. The pandemic has highlighted the necessity of rethinking the relationship between science communication and digital transformation, starting from one of the major limitations in the field of Science Communication, which is the tendency to prioritize solutions that favor analog and “in-person” forms of engagement over those mediated by digital technologies that provide remote modes of access.

In the last two decades, during the progressive evolution of Web 2.0 and Web 3.0, technologies such as smartphones, social media, online platforms, virtual and immersive environments, artificial intelligence – just to name a few examples – have become the most widespread digital technologies through which millions of people, especially young individuals, access content, information, and culture in a broader sense. These technologies are also how they work, study, play, build relationships, and entertain themselves. They significantly influence the modes of production, distribution, and consumption of cultural content, including communication styles, formats, techniques, and models. Scientific communication is not exempt from these transformations, which have been accelerated by the pandemic. Instead, it faces challenges in adapting to a “new normal” increasingly mediated by the digital and online dimension.

Within the context of these dynamics, the Sci-Co+ High Professional Skills for Advanced Science Communication project aims to identify an innovative model of science communication based on the use of the most advanced solutions offered by information and communication technologies (ICT), especially those of Web 2.0 and Web 3.0. The goal is to conceive, design, develop, and implement “advanced” scientific communication experiences and related application methodologies.

To this end, as part of the project, an initial step was the exploration and description of the “state of the art” in scientific communication concerning the use of digital technologies. One of the first steps in this investigation was the identification and analysis of the real-world experiences of members of the SCI-CO+ Partnership. This partnership consists of universities, science centers, and organizations that, in various capacities, operate in the European field of science, technology, and digital transformation[1].

The exploratory research conducted by the team at the University of Naples Federico II, led by Prof. Raffaele Savonardo, was based on the analysis of 24 case studies. These case studies represented practices in science and technology communication by the partner organizations of SCI-CO+. The goal of this research was to provide an initial overview of the communication methods used in the field of science, particularly in terms of science dissemination and socialization. Specifically, the research aimed to highlight the following aspects: the content presented, the tools employed, the areas of intervention, the target audiences, challenges, and best practices.

This investigation allowed for an initial assessment of the activities within the partnership and will serve as the empirical and knowledge foundation for the development of project actions. These actions are particularly focused on creating an innovative model of science communication called e-SciCo, along with its application methodologies. Additionally, the research will help identify advanced professional profiles within the field of science communication, driven by the processes initiated by the digital transition in the post-COVID era. The research, based on a qualitative methodology, involved the selection, collection, and analysis of the 24 aforementioned case studies using a content analysis form. This form was designed to capture the following indicators:

  1. a) Promoting entity (university, science center, organization);
  2. b) Case study demographics (product title, web link, release date);
  3. c) Description and objectives (product details);
  4. d) Impact (potential social, economic, and commercial benefits);
  5. e) SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats);
  6. f) Type of technology used (website, video, document, audio, app, virtual reality experience, augmented reality, mixed reality);
  7. g) Target audience and language (target groups);
  8. h) Funding and costs.

The research unfolded in three phases: in the first phase, the data collection tool (template) was developed and validated based on the theoretical framework and a literature review of the study’s topics; in the second phase, the template was administered to the partners of the SCI-CO+ project to gather the most significant digital science communication experiences of each partner; in the third phase, a qualitative analysis of the empirical material was conducted, and the results were elaborated descriptively based on the selected indicators.

To effectively and systematically present the main findings, here is a summary of the most relevant results, taking into account the differences among the three types of actors involved: Universities, Science Centers, and Science Museums, and other organizations.

In general, from the study of the investigated cases, it emerges that thanks to processes of cross-media and transmedia technological convergence, the partners of the SCI-CO+ Project employ a variety of tools and technologies to connect the public with science and vice versa. These include websites, videos, games, apps, online courses, interactive experiences both onsite and online, 2D and 3D virtual environments, virtual reality experiences (VR), augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (XR), and holograms. These digital tools complement the traditional educational and participatory pathways of in-person scientific communication, such as exhibitions, festivals, training events, dissemination, networking, workshops, as well as informative documentation. However, it is possible to identify further specificities depending on the promoting entities of the investigated initiatives.

In the case of universities, activities exclusively dedicated to science communication are primarily directed towards the scientific community and professionals, such as researchers, science communication experts, and scientific institutions. However, initiatives involving students and civil society are not lacking. The main areas of application for these initiatives are research, education, dissemination, and internationalization. The primary sources of funding for science communication activities in academia come from European programs and national and local public institutions. Among the main challenges are bureaucratic and administrative difficulties and the lack of specialized personnel for managing projects focused on science communication, as well as fundraising efforts.

In the case of Science Museums and Science Centers, on the other hand, science communication, dissemination, and socialization initiatives represent their core activities. Science museums target a very broad audience, encompassing civil society as a whole, but particularly focus on the world of education. They engage students of all levels, teachers, and families with the primary goal of spreading scientific and technological culture throughout society. In this case as well, the primary sources of funding mostly come from national public institutions, primarily the Ministries of Education and Public Instruction. According to operators of the investigated Science Centers, the main challenges for the success of science communication initiatives are multidimensional in nature and primarily stem from the complexity and constraints of technological systems, the limited interactivity of some technical solutions, and the involvement and active participation of interested target audiences.

Finally, among the other organizations within the partnership, which are involved in various ways in the field of science and technology, there is a greater openness to the world of businesses, innovative startups, stakeholders, and scientists. These organizations also target young audiences and groups characterized by educational poverty and social marginalization. In fact, the science communication initiatives proposed by these entities are geared towards promoting networking, education, social inclusion, and the dissemination of scientific and technological culture. These organizations receive funding from both private and public sources, primarily from European and national programs. However, they often struggle to secure sponsorships and partnerships in the corporate world.

This brief overview, certainly not exhaustive, ultimately highlights that in developing an advanced science communication model capable of addressing the challenges of digital transformation in the post-COVID era, several key elements must be taken into account. These include: integration and interoperability among existing technological systems; the use of interactive and participatory technologies to engage audiences interested in scientific topics; the design of new phygital (physical and digital) communication experiences, which integrate analog and digital, real and virtual, hardware and software, offline and online elements; the emergence of new professional profiles capable of managing the digital transition. This is the challenge that Sci-Co+ is taking on.

[1] For the sake of completeness, we’d like to mention the composition of the SCI-CO+ Project Partnership, which consists of the following organizations: Fondazione IDIS – Città della Scienza (Naples, Italy), the promoter and coordinator of the initiative; Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II (Naples, Italy); Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland); Università Politecnica di Bucarest (Bucharest, Romania); Ciencia Viva (Lisbon, Portugal); Distretto Databenc (Naples, Italy); Fondazione Mondo Digitale (Rome, Italy); Navet (Boras, Sweden). The latter three are organizations dedicated to science communication.

The Digital Mermaid”, experience on the use of holography in museum communication (


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