One hundred people from all over Spain will travel to Valencia this Saturday to participate in a citizen consultation of the European CONCISE project, which investigates the role that scientific communication plays in the knowledge and beliefs of European citizens on scientific issues. The meeting, in the Botanical Garden of the University of Valencia, joins those already held in Vicenza (Italy), Lodz (Poland) and Trnava (Slovakia).
This Saturday consultation is organised by the University of Valencia and the company FyG Consultores within the framework of CONCISE, a project funded by the European Union. When the consultations end this November in Lisbon (Portugal), 500 citizens of the five European countries mentioned will have participated in the study.
Citizen consultations are the central axis of this project. They consist of several informal debates throughout a day, in which the participants can share their opinions and experiences about the way in which scientific information reaches the general public.
“We want to understand how European citizens build their scientific knowledge, and how it conditions their attitudes, actions and decisions in the face of four current issues: vaccines, climate change, genetically modified organisms and the use of alternative therapies,” explains Carolina Moreno, professor of Journalism of the University of Valencia, researcher from the Research Institute on Social Welfare Policy (Polibienestar) and head of CONCISE. “We will collect the testimonies of 500 European people (representing the 500 million people in the EU) through five consultations in five cities.”
To meet this objective in Spain, the University of Valencia and FyG Consultores have carefully selected 100 people who represent the social reality of the country. There are three mandatory compliance conditions: be of legal age, live in Spain and understand and speak Spanish well. Beyond that, the selected profiles are very diverse. “People of all ages will come to the consultation, men and women, from rural and urban areas, people with higher and lower levels of education”, says Moreno. “We want to thank those who have been interested in selflessly contributing to our study”, she adds.
Despite not paying for participation, the project will cover the travel and accommodation expenses of the participants travelling to Valencia. In addition to them, the event will gather around 50 volunteers who will ensure the correct development of the consultation.
Public consultations represent a good opportunity for participants to express their opinions on the topics of study. In the case of CONCISE, citizens will meet in groups of 8 to 10 people and discuss how they receive information on scientific topics, which channels they use and which they prefer, how they assess the credibility of the information received, how all this affects their actions and decisions, and how communication could be improved.
The activity is expected to take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Each person will participate in four debates, one for each current topic, and there will also be intervals to eat and rest. The citizen consultation of CONCISE will help people of different social realities to meet, dialogue, exchange opinions and share their knowledge with the research staff of the project.
Following citizen consultations in Italy and Poland in September, and those in Slovakia and Spain in October, Portugal will close the consultative phase of the project. The Portuguese consultation, led by the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon, will be held on November 16 at the Belém Cultural Centre. Despite CONCISE’s thematic and geographical limitations, the results of this project are expected to be scalable and its methodology applicable to other countries and scientific fields. In this way, the quantity and quality of science communication in Europe can be increased in the medium and long term.
CONCISE is a collaborative research project funded by the Horizon 2020 program - ‘Science by and for Society’ of the European Union, whose main objective is to build new ways of cooperation between science and society. CONCISE is formed by nine institutions from five European countries, a multidisciplinary team led by the University of Valencia and which also has the Spanish participation of the Studies Centre on Science, Communication and Society of the Pompeu Fabra University, FyG Consultores and the Spanish Association of Scientific Communication. CONCISE has received funding from the Horizon 2020 research and innovation program of the European Union under grant agreement number 824537.