A guide to recognize and value the dissemination of science


The CRUE Universities of Spain has recently presented the ” Guide for the Valuation of the Activity of Scientific Disclosure of Academic and Research Staff “. This document aims to be a useful tool to recognize the activities of dissemination and social dissemination of knowledge in the evaluation processes of university teaching and research staff.

When colleagues from the faculty and the laboratory see that we carry out scientific dissemination activities, comments like these usually appear:
“It’s a waste of time”

“Why do them if they are not valued professionally”.

Spreading science is not a waste of time

In the latest surveys of the social perception of science regularly carried out by the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology, FECYT , there is a slight growth in the interest of society for science and technology, but that interest does not exceed 16% . Most people are not interested in science, in many cases because they do not understand it. And what is not understood is not valued, or it can generate distrust, rejection and even fear.

There is an international consensus about the importance of transmitting to society the value of knowledge generated in universities and research centers. It is a change of model in which disclosure plays a key role.

Greater transparency is needed on the research being financed, the results obtained and the beneficial impact generated by science in society.

The classic formula of R + D + i (Research + Development + innovation) should be extended with a new addition: R + D + i + d , a “d” of disclosure. Society has the right to information resulting from scientific activity for social responsibility (knowing how our money and resources are invested) and for democratic quality (a better educated and informed society is freer and less manipulable). In addition, the presence of science in public space contributes to prestige.

The scientific information has to be rigorous and clear. Like teaching and research, the dissemination of knowledge and culture is one of the functions of the University, and scientific dissemination, as well as university management, can be part of the work of teaching and research staff, although not everyone must dedicate themselves to it.

We are the researchers who must ensure that our scientific activity is made known to society in general so that it can be understood by people who are not specialists. In addition, this direct commitment to the public will help the researchers themselves to better understand the interest and social concerns: science by and to serve society.

Scientific dissemination, as well as university management, must be valued professionally

In spite of this generalized consensus on the importance of scientific dissemination, until now these activities have been carried out by the university staff in a more or less altruistic or willful way.

For more than ten years now, with the celebration of the Year of Science in 2007 , we have been talking about how to value this dissemination activity. However, very few institutions recognize in a concrete way the dissemination and dissemination activities of science in the teaching and research career, among other reasons because until now there were no specific indicators to evaluate them correctly.

The Guide to Popularization and Scientific Culture

In 2015, the CRUE gave the green light to the creation of a working group to design a proposal to achieve the recognition of scientific dissemination as a merit in the teaching and research career. The new Scientific Disclosure and Culture Working Group began, known as the Divulga Network and made up of members of the Scientific Culture Units (UCC) and other dissemination structures of Spanish universities, which, together with a technical team from the FECYT , has developed the ” Guide for the Valuation of the Activity of Scientific Disclosure of Academic and Research Staff “.

This document collects the activities that can be taken into account in the evaluation, describes the merits to be assessed and proposes quality indicators that help to weigh the impact of the contributions.

Thus, for the first time they can be assessed in the resume up to 17 types of activities ranging from publications and resources (books, chapters, articles outreach and exhibitions), audiovisual media and the Internet (creation of outreach materials, counseling journalists, participation in radio and TV programs, blogs and social networks), interactive activities (courses, conferences and round tables, outreach shows and competitions) to awards, distinctions and competitive calls for communication and scientific dissemination.

The guide has been made available to the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities. The next step could be taking it into consideration in the new versions of the standard curriculum vitae ( CVN ).

I hope it helps to value the social dissemination of scientific knowledge and is a useful tool for evaluation and accreditation agencies, such as ANECA and others, and for universities and research centers, both public and private. The social dissemination of knowledge, the prestige of universities and the curriculum of the research staff would benefit greatly.

Ignacio López-Goñi is director of the Science Museum University of Navarra

Juan Ignacio Pérez is director of the Chair of Scientific Culture of the UPV / EHU

Joaquín Sevilla is responsible for Knowledge Dissemination of the Public University of Navarra

Author Bios: Ignacio López-Goñi is a Professor of Microbiology at the University of Navarra, Joaquín Sevilla is Head of knowledge dissemination and professor of Tec. Electrónica at the Public University of Navarra and Juan Ignacio Pérez Iglesias is a Professor of Physiology at the University of the Basque Country / Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea