John C. Besley, Anthony Dudo and Martin Storksdieck
This study assesses how scientists think about science communication training based on the argument that such training represents an important tool in improving the quality of interactions between scientists and the public. It specifically focuses on training related to five goals, including views about training to make science messages understandable, as well as attitude-focused training meant to build trust and credibility, to demonstrate that one listens to the public, to demonstrate that one cares about the public’s views, and to frame messages to resonate with audiences’ pre-existing values. The theory of planned behavior and procedural justice theory were used to identify potential predictors of views about training toward these goals. Results show that the scientists rate message comprehension and credibility most favorably and give their lowest rating to training related to framing. Regression analyses reveal that believing that public engagement can make a difference (external efficacy) and belief in the ethicality of specific goals were the best predictors of whether scientists saw value in goal-oriented training. The results suggest that communication trainers might benefit from emphasizing the effectiveness and ethicality of engagement activities if they want to attract scientists to communication training, and that more work may need to be done by professional organizations to help scientists consider the value of thinking about communication goals beyond the traditional focus on message comprehension.