What is a science communicator?

A science communicator is someone who conveys science in a way that is understandable to an audience, usually the general public. The goal of the science communicator is to make the audience understand a scientific process, mechanism or topic. The goal is not to solely expose their acquired scientific skills but rather to share those skills with people without a scientific background.

Science communicators can generally be divided into two groups: those who are active in scientific research and those who are not. The former group consists of researchers, PhD students and scientific staff, while the latter consists of people with a science background (bachelor, master or PhD degree in a science area), who no longer is or ever was doing research.

There are multiple differences between these two groups. One of the overall differences is the motivation to do science communication. Before diving further into various motivations it should of course be mentioned that all motivations are individual, so this is not a truth set in stone but more a guideline to have a common vocabulary for discussion science communication.

Active researchers as science communicators

This group covers anyone working actively with research. Usually they work at a university in an academic environment as professors, postdocs, scientific staff or doing work for their PhD dissertation.

The motivation in this group can be to create awareness on their field of research in order to attract students, fulfill requirements with a recent grant or to strengthen their public scientific profile to achieve larger public or political impact or to even increase the success rates in future grant applications.

The common denominator here is that the main objective of researchers is (of course) research. Science communication therefore becomes a side-project to achieve whatever goals have been set. This group can therefore be interested in being a more a lean and efficient science communicator as opposed to being a more exploring and experimenting communicator, simply due to issues related to time and resources.

Science communicators outside scientific research

This group covers anyone with a scientific background who are not active in research, but still want to convey science. This group has solid knowledge from their education and experience, but are not actively publishing scientific results.

With the increased awareness on science communication this group also contains people either working full-time or wanting to work full-time with science communication. This will often also lead to more time and resources to dive into various communication projects, as well as the ability to assist researchers in making their science more accessible to the public.

Science journalists falls into this category as well, as an example of perhaps a more traditional type of science communicator.

The challenge of being a good science communicator is that the audience can mistake you for conveying an easy field – as opposed to explaining a complex field in an easy way.