Fake news, excessive relativism or the active discrediting of science and journalistic media are obvious symptoms of a crisis of truth. This crisis, however, reaches deeper, it manifests itself, for example, more fundamentally in the uncertainty when dealing with multiple facts and with plural, value-laden perspectives. Science itself must respond to this challenge with new approaches to science communication. This involves not only communicating the results of individual disciplines, but also knowledge about the science system itself and about the diversity and limits of reliable scientific findings. The Rhine Ruhr Center for Science Communication Research (RRC), funded by the Volkswagen Foundation for an initial period of five years, addresses precisely this point. It seeks to reorganise both the content of science communication and the structures of science communication research in order to enable the public to engage more actively with science and thus improve their factual judgement.
As a joint project of TU Dortmund University, the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities Essen (KWI), the University of Bonn and Bonn-Rhine-Sieg University of Applied Sciences, the RRC benefits from an interdisciplinary as well as international network. Together with its cooperation partners at the Science Media Center Germany (SMC) and the German Science Journalists’ Association (WPK), the RRC is able to develop and implement communication and research infrastructures that will have a lasting impact on the dense research and media landscape in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Fusing theory and practice, the RRC is centred around three main research projects in order to develop quality standards as well as heuristic and hermeneutic procedures. To do so, the RRC pursues a double strategy: The interdisciplinary field of Science Studies provides meta- and orientation knowledge for the assessment of scientific practices and new developments across all disciplines, addressing changes in the publication system as well as, for example, research funding structures. A parallel approach focuses on the Social Sciences and Humanities, which have so far been neglected by science communication research. To go beyond the boundaries of arts and culture sections and to overcome the shortcomings of popular, yet simplistic models of science communication, the RRC aims to analyse to what extent the Social Sciences and Humanities can contribute to a more comprehensive and precise contextualisation of scientific facts and findings.