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Communication between Science, the Public and the Media: Relevance, Opportunities and Risks of Social Media

Science and journalism are among the key elements of a democratic society. They provide information to policy makers and society, enhance a populace’s education and knowledge and stimulate democratic discourse. But how does the exchange of ideas between science, journalism and society function? In a two-year project entitled „Zum Verhältnis zwischen Wissenschaft, Öffentlichkeit und Medien“ (The Relationship between Science, the Public and the Media), a panel of experts developed proposals “for shaping the process of information transfer between science, the public and the media”. In the project’s second phase the focus turned to the world of social media.

Social media and social networks are highly promising avenues for communicating scientific information. There the flexibility of switching between the roles of communicator, recipient or user is built into the system while at the same time public and private communication are combined and interwoven. Information disseminated by the mass media can now be passed on or changed and commented on.

The central concern of the project was to determine how the formulation and communication of scientific content is affected by the special attributes of social media. The possibilities of the new technologies (e.g. extending the range, broadening participation, interactivity) should thereby be more precisely assessed while also identifying and evaluating specific associated risks (e.g. lack of quality control, disinformation, mainstreaming or, also, fragmentation). Included in the mandate was an overview of the international state of research regarding this array of questions with a special emphasis on the communication of scientific subject matter.

The social media have quickly become the project’s main object of study. At the same time, however, the state of research concerning social media’s impact on scientific communication remains sketchy. Numerous science communicators and science bloggers that are active in social media are included in the discussion. The academic groups took this dynamic of their topic into account by employing a dialogue-oriented working method:

  • In the first step, the working group developed an investigative framework that only became established after its concordance with the commissioned surveys of the state of research concerning the empirical findings before them had been tested and verified.
  • The working group planned to intensify its investigation by holding two expert hearings in June and December 2015.
  • In March 2016 the working group presented its interim results for discussion in a public workshop.
  • On this basis, the working group elaborated its results, which were then published in 2017.


  • Nationale Akademie der Wissenschaften Leopoldina
  • acatech - Deutsche Akademie der Technikwissenschaften (Federführung)
  • Union der deutschen Akademien der Wissenschaften (Federführung)


  • Prof. Dr. Prof. Dr. Reinhard F. Hüttl, acatech - Deutsche Akademie der Technikwissenschaften
  • Prof. Dr. Peter Weingart, Universität Bielefeld
  • Prof. Dipl.-Chem. Holger Wormer, TU Dortmund

Members of the Working Group

  • Heidi Blattmann, Wissenschaftspublizistin und ehemalige Ressortleiterin Wissenschaft, Neue Zürcher Zeitung
  • Dr. Elisabeth Hoffmann, TU Braunschweig
  • Prof. Dr. Otfried Jarren, Universität Zürich
  • Prof. Dr. Carsten Könneker, Nationales Institut für Wissenschaftskommunikation
  • Nicola Kuhrt, Spiegel online
  • Prof. Dr. Martin Lohse ML, Max Delbrück-Centrum, Berlin
  • Prof. Dr. Sabine Maasen, TU München
  • Prof. Dr. Christoph Neuberger, LMU München
  • Prof. Dr. Alfred Pühler ML, Universität Bielefeld
  • Dr. Evelyn Runge, Universität Hildesheim
  • Prof. Dr. Dietram A. Scheufele, University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Prof. Dr. Jule Specht, FU Berlin

ML = Member of the Leopoldina



Dr. Christian Anton

Scientific Officer, Department Science - Policy - Society

Phone 0345 - 47 239 - 861
Fax 0345 - 47 239 - 839
E-Mail christian.anton @leopoldina.org