A planetarium to go, workshops on non-violent communication, and an interactive hiking path in the mountains of Tyrol – a total of 34 initiatives funded by the FWF over the last few years have taken basic research to where it belongs: in the hearts and minds of us all. Making research capable of being shared, experienced, and understood – these are the goals of the FWF’s Science Communication programme. The current call for applications is open until 9 September 2020. Learn more about some of the successful communication projects of recent years.
How can the complexity of the universe be explained in a clear and vivid manner? How can one’s passion for science and research inspire other people and encourage them to pursue a scientific/scholarly career? How can people be made aware of the need for robust basic research without thematic restrictions? The FWF’s Science Communication programme (WKP) has been helping researchers to clearly communicate and raise awareness for their FWF-funded projects among various target groups since 2013.
“To be successful nowadays, researchers must be able to communicate important results in an understandable way, inspire a fascination with research, and actively involve the general public,” said FWF President Klement Tockner, who continued, “While science communication seems natural nowadays, seven years ago it was still uncharted territory in Austria. I’m glad that the FWF has been able to help pave the way for this positive development.”
Fascination with basic research
You can read more about the 34 projects funded so far as part of the Science Communication programme in the FWF Project Finder. Three WKP projects are presented below to give you an idea of the range of topics receiving funding.
“Astronomy to go”
Manuel Güdel, Department of Astrophysics, University of Vienna
The inflatable planetarium purchased with funding from the WKP programme has been helping to instil an interest in the natural sciences and astronomy in children and teenagers between the ages of 6 and 14. However, the programme can also be adapted for every age group, if needed. During the original project alone, the project team visited 38 schools, held 241 shows, and aroused the curiosity of 4,500 pupils in their own schools. The mobile planetarium has continued to tour Austria after the end of the WKP project and succeeded in cracking the 10,000-visitor mark at the beginning of 2020.
“Verbal Aggression in Schools: Causes, Forms, Violence Prevention”
Oksana Havryliv, Department of German Studies, University of Vienna
Several schools and one correctional facility participated in the project, which investigated the causes, forms, and reactions to verbally aggressive speech acts in interactive workshops. During the latter, Oksana Havryliv made children and teenagers aware that violence takes many different forms and linguistic actions can be just as violent as physical ones and can also be acts of violence. Together with the pupils, she discussed productive strategies for dealing with verbal aggression and designed non-violent models of communication and the expression of emotions.
“Experiencing ecosystem services”
Ulrike Tappeiner, Department of Ecology, University of Innsbruck
In this WKP project, the world’s first guided and interactive hiking tour introduced a broad public to the concept of ecosystem services (goods and benefits humans receive from nature). With the help of an audio guide for smartphones and a booklet, people could learn about the importance of ecosystem services in mountainous regions at eleven interactive stations along a trail in Telfes in Tyrol’s Stubaital Valley. To bring the content to life, each station included a challenge to do something active in addition to providing relevant background information. The content was also prepared in such a way that it could be used for school classes anywhere in Austria, not just Tyrol.
WKP Call 2020: New directions in science communication
In 2020, some elements of the Science Communication programme have been modified on the suggestion of the expert jury and the scientific community. Besides principal investigators, project staff members are now also eligible to subject applications. The WKP project must still be primarily carried out in Austria, but funding can also be used for activities abroad. Plus, the evaluation criteria have been revised and streamlined. The current call has been open since the beginning of July and runs until 9 September 2020.
You can find the current application forms here.
Austrian Science Fund FWF
The FWF is Austria’s central funding organisation for basic research as well as arts-based research. Applying international quality benchmarks, the FWF provides funding for outstanding research projects and excellent researchers who work to generate, broaden, and deepen scientific knowledge.