The science of science communication

Science communication has become so widespread that it’s led to its own field of study. Just as some researchers study the science of space or the science of microbiology, there are also scientists who study the science of science communication. They do formal research into the many different science communication practices, both to put it into a broader context, and to find out what works best.

If you want to delve deeper into the science of science communication, here are a few tips.


  • Several journals publish articles about science communication. There are dedicated journals, like Science Communication or the Journal of Science Communication, but you can also find these types of papers in journals that cover a broad range of science topics. Check the articles’ reference sections to find even more!
  • To find these papers, don’t just limit yourself to a narrow database like PubMed. If you’re a life scientist, that’s probably where you usually look for papers, but science communication as a field is more of a social science, and not all papers will be in databases focused on more specific areas of research. You can try Google Scholar to catch a wider net.
  • Finally, many large conferences include some science communication posters at their poster sessions. This is where people in your field might share their own outreach or citizen science projects.

Study versus practice

If you’re already struggling to find the time to take part in science communication activities, it might seem difficult to also read formal studies about it. But it’s worth doing a quick search to see if anything has been published about your planned activity. Maybe your new project is similar to something that has already been studied in detail, and you can take advantage of their experience. Particularly if you’re trying to get funding for a science communication project, it helps to be able to show evidence from the literature.

It can also be eye-opening to get a sense of the broader context in which science communication is studied. What to you might just feel like a fun weekend helping out at a science fair, for example, is part of a well-studied phenomenon.

Who uses this?

  • There are several academic departments and research groups that focus specifically on the science of science communication. For example, the Environmental and Science Communication research group at the University of Leicester or the Science Communication Unit at UWE. Some researchers in this field are part of general social science departments, where they specialize in science communication.
  • The academic side of science communication is often discussed on blogs, such as the PLOS SciComm blog or From The Lab Bench. Check the links on those blogs – or on some Share Your Sci articles – for academic papers on science communication.
  • In general, a lot of online groups and mailing lists that share science communication tips also occasionally features discussions of academic papers in the field.

Image credit: Colour-altered image of an original by Andre Mouton on Unsplash