Introducing the CWTS Focal Area Engagement and Inclusion: A vision and roadmap
The new Focal Area Engagement & Inclusion at CWTS aims to create a more diverse, inclusive and engaging science ecosystem. This blogpost introduces our main vision and roadmap for the future. We welcome any person or organisation interested in these topics to reach out to us!
To develop our CWTS knowledge agenda we formed three focal areas at the start of this year to organise our activities. Here, we introduce the vision and roadmap of the Focal Area Engagement & Inclusion.
In today's rapidly changing world, fostering a collaborative, diverse and inclusive science ecosystem that engages with society is of paramount importance. As we navigate complex global challenges such as climate change, pandemics, and artificial intelligence, it becomes evident that diverse perspectives, inclusive participation and public engagement in scientific knowledge creation and communication are key to unlocking science-based solutions for societal challenges. The Focal Area Engagement & Inclusion envisions studying and promoting diversity and inclusivity in the science ecosystem and the engagement and communication between science and society.
In line with the three pillars of the CWTS knowledge agenda – understanding, intervening and practising – we developed an ambitious agenda for the study and promotion of diversity, inclusion, engagement, communication and science-society interactions. Our work will not only contribute to research and teaching around these questions, but will also support policy developments and interventions, and generate insights into how we can implement our findings at our own centre.
Representation & Inclusiveness
We believe diversity and inclusivity in the global science ecosystem is important. By breaking down barriers to participation in science for individuals from a variety of backgrounds, cultures, and experiences, we enrich the pool of knowledge, ideas, and approaches in research, which, in turn, helps to address scientific and societal challenges more effectively. Who gets to participate in science is not always self-evident and requires more fundamental understanding and well-considered interventions to improve the inclusion and representation of all social groups in science, and the science system as a whole.
Epistemic diversity in the science system is of major importance. We need to recognise how different topics, research questions, knowledge systems, and actors, including other-than-human ones, help to produce a fairer and more nuanced understanding of complex global issues. By monitoring and promoting epistemic diversity, we expect to foster a more inclusive and innovative environment where different ways of knowing are valued and incorporated.
For instance, we want to study and address the lack of coverage in mainstream scientometric databases; a problem that stands in the way of making important societal topics visible in science policy. Consequently, we expect to develop multiversatories, policies, and recommendations to support funders and science policy with reinforcing epistemic diversity.
Engagement & Communication
A research system that is disconnected from society is essentially ineffective. Science communication, public engagement with science, and participatory approaches for collaborative knowledge production are integral building blocks for a stronger and more relevant research and innovation ecosystem. Effective science communication and public engagement help to bridge the gap between academia and society; help to make scientific approaches and knowledge more accessible to the wider public and societal stakeholders (e.g. policy makers, industry, etc.); limit the impact of misinformation and the misuse of scientific information; and may help to increase public trust in science. We will study how society engages with science, in order to improve science communication and strengthen the role science can play in society.
Citizen science and other participatory approaches can create a stronger sense of societal ownership and accountability, turning scientific research into a collective societal endeavour. Societal actors outside academia contribute to the scientific ecosystem in various ways, for instance with local and traditional knowledge or insights from lived experience, or by contributing to evidence-informed policy-making. The engagement of societal actors can also direct the attention of research to issues of societal importance, increasing both their societal relevance and their practical impacts. Engaging other actors, such as industry, policy-makers or non-governmental organisations, can help with more informed policy, decision-making and innovation. We want to study citizen-science practices and how they are changing scientific outcomes, with the aim of helping to shape citizen-science further.
Accomplishing our ambitions
Coordination of dreams, people, and projects
The real treasure trove of the Focal Area Engagement & Inclusion is all the individual members with their own areas of expertise, projects, dreams, and activities. We are a team of more than 30 colleagues from a variety of backgrounds and career stages.
As a first step, we mapped our research projects, PhD projects, and personal dreams into three sub-areas (which we initially characterised as ambitions!), as well as into the existing contractual (i.e., BV) and institute projects, and the work of the Citizen Science Lab and the UNESCO lab (Figure 1). This mapping formed an excellent means for thinking about our future activities.
We have created a working group for each of the three sub-areas to bundle expertise and resources. The working groups will bring together a diverse range of colleagues, from within and outside of CWTS, each contributing with their unique knowledge to tackle the complex challenges of the sub-areas.
Projects play a pivotal role in our day-to-day work at CWTS. Our Focal Area will help coordinate existing projects, and monitor funding opportunities to set up new projects. Our focused strategy of aligning projects with the goals of the Focal Area will be crucial for achieving our vision and ambitions.
In addition, engagement and communication activities will be of central importance for the Focal Area. We think of dedicated seminars, special sessions at conferences (e.g. a special session on “Researching (in-) equity, diversity and inclusion in science through bibliometric, mixed- and multi-method studies” organised at the STI 2023 conference), or co-creation workshops with citizens and societal stakeholders. In line with our ideal of practising what we preach, we ourselves will communicate our work and activities to broader audiences through blog posts and social media, and look forward to open and engaging conversations with others on these topics.
If you are interested in partnering with us on this exciting journey, we invite you to get in touch with the E&I Focal Area coordinators: Carole de Bordes, Rodrigo Costas, Sarah de Rijcke, Tjitske Holtrop and Vincent Traag.