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science communication Glossary

If you are new to science communication, there may be a few words used in the sector you might like to learn. If you think of any more that should be in the list or would like to contribute a (improved) definition, please contact us

Audiences The plural of audience, this encompasses the different types of audience or sections of society that a science communication activity might reach or be appropriate for. For example, your activity could have a range of audiences and may be suitable for primary school children, families, adults and researchers, with each separate group being an audience.

Analogy Where a comparison is made to help explain or clarify something more complex. Analogies in science communication often involve comparing scientific concepts to similar concepts in non-scientific topics.

BIG-Chat BIG's own mailing list used by science communicators to announce, events, job opportunities and discuss issues and topics around science communication. Sign up here!

Bright Club  This initiative brings comedy and science together in events all over the country. Find out more here.

Cafe Scientifique A forum and event for debating science issues where researchers come and talk and discuss their research wth the public in a non-academic setting. Find out more here.

Citizen Science Where the public is involved in scientific research. Find out more here.

Closed question A question where the only response required is a one-word answer, e.g. yes or no.

DBS The Disclosure and Barring Service is responsible for carrying out checks for suitability for working with children and vulnerable adults. Find out more here.

Didactic Teaching in the manner of a teacher. Although, in theory, this could be used in a neutral or even positive way, in practice, it is generally used in a negative sense to imply a one-way or overly proscriptive style of interaction and may also imply a patronising approach.

Drop-in An activity that visitors can just turn up and take part in, with no prior booking or reservation. These often allow visitors to stay for as long as they like too.

EOI - Expression of Interest A method of showing your interest in being involved with something. It could be for a session at a science festival, a possible grant application or to take part in an event.

Evaluation This is usually something that is recommended, or even required, to try and assess or measure the impact of your science communication activity. It could be as basic as attendance figures all the way to studying the successful learning outcomes of your participants. Evaluation is often needed as a form of evidence for funding or justification of holding the event in the future.

Exhibit This word is often used to define a single exhibit, even just one interactive station,  up to a whole exhibition. Make sure you know which one applies if you are discussing a particular exhibit!

(Science) Explainer This term is often used for staff at Science Centres or Museums that regularly engage with the centre's visitors by explaining the science behind their exhibits or delivering programmed science shows and activities.

Facilitator A person who makes a process or action easier but stays neutral throughout so that the group of people they are facilitating achieves their aims themselves.

FameLab A world-wide science communication competition where participants have three minutes to give an engaging scientific talk. Find out more here.

Formal (Education) Education of people in a systematic, planned and intentional and delivered by trained teachers. This occurs in schools, colleges and universities.

Hands-on Activities that involve the participant doing, manipulating and interacting with the subject matter rather than receiving it passively. 

KS1, KS2... KS stands for Key Stage and refers to different levels in the National Curriculum in the UK School Education system. Early Years = 3-5 year olds (Reception and Year 1), KS1 = 5-7 years olds (Years 2-3), KS2 = 7-11 year olds (Years 4-6), KS3 = 11-14 year olds (years 7-9), KS4 = 14-16 year olds (Years 10-11/GCSE), KS5 = 16-18 year olds (Years 12-13/A level).

Impact An effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia. Find out more here.

Interactive An interactive activity involves a two-way continuous transfer of information. AN Interactive is a piece of an exhibition that is hands-on and can be touched and manipulated to aid learning and discovery. 

Informal (Education) Education of people outside the structure of formal education and learning can be achieved in a wide variety of methods, settings and experiences.

Jargon Words or expressions that are related to a specific, specialised topic that people outside that area may not understand or relate to. These words may have a different meaning in and outside that particular area.

Learning Outcomes The take-away knowledge, skills or understanding that you would like a participant to have when an activity is complete.

Make-and-take An activity where participants are encouraged to make something and be able to take it away with them.

Meet the Scientist Often used to describe an activity where children or the general public are given the opportunity to meet and interact with a scientific expert.

Misconception A view, opinion or apparent knowledge that is incorrect because of faulty thinking or understanding.

Open question A question that required more thought and where the answer required is more than a simple one-word answer.

Outreach Where scientific information is imparted to a non-scientific audience in a fun and engaging way.

Pathways to Impact The routes a research project will use to get to an impact destination. Find out more here.

Pint of Science An annual science festival which brings researchers to your local pub to tell you about the latest scientific research. Find out more here.

Public Engagement Where the public and scientists take part in a two-way engagement of scientific information, hopefully to the mutual benefit of both parties.

PSCI-Comm A mailing list used by science communicators to announce, events, job opportunities and discuss issues and topics around science communication.

RCUK, RSC, IOP etc Many Research Councils, organisations and institutions are more commonly known by their initials or acronyms. There are too many to list them all here but some of the more well-known ones are: Research Councils UK (RCUK), Royal Society (RS), Royal Institution (Ri), Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), Institute of Physics (IOP), Royal Society of Biology (RSB), British Science Association (BSA), National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE)

REF The Research Excellence Framework which assesses the quality of research in Higher Education Institutions. Find out more here.

Science Capital A description of the various influences on a person's life experiences that can have a bearing on their science identity and participation in science-related activities (taken from google)

Science show A talk given on a science topic that regularly involves live demonstrations, experiments, audience participation and other interactive and two-way forms of communication between the speaker and the audience.

Science Showoff An open mic night for anyone with something to show off about science in venues around the country. Find out more here.

SciComm Abbreviation of Science Communication.

STEM Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths

STEM Ambassadors People who volunteer their time, STEM knowledge and expertise to help encourage and inspire young people to study STEM subjects. Find out more here.

STEAM Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths

Tinkering Investigating the world through the process of open-ended making, remaking and creative problem solving.

Widening Participation (WP) A government strategy that asks Higher Education Institutions to encourage the up-take of higher education by social groups that show low participation in this area. 

Workshop A session based around certain learning outcomes that is usually interactive. It is generally more structured and time-specific than a drop-in activity.

Under-served audiences These audience types are those that would not normally participate in your particular activity. This is possibly because of a lack of interest, knowledge or availability to encourage them to get involved.


More Science Communication Terms

Terms that have different meanings for scientists and the public (google doc)

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