Workshop - Visions in Global Systems Science: Narratives as a Communication Tool for Scientists

  • PDF
Share Button

altVisions in Global Systems Science: Narratives as a Communication Tool for Scientists

On 13-14 March 2013 Euclid Network, together with INSITE partners and the European Commission, held a workshop in Brussels on how we can use narratives effectively to communicate scientific results to a large audience.

Traditional scientific narratives are effective for the scientific community but they are often fail in terms of conveying a message between the scientific community and the rest of society. At the same time new ICT enabled media allows us to communicate in new ways of using narratives in communication.

The workshop explored how to position scientific narratives. The objectives were:

• To share the expertise of practitioners from art, communication, ICT and science and discuss what role narratives can play to get the whole of society more engaged in science, how scientists can develop narratives for engagement, what role ICT can play to enhance such engagement.
• To provide contributions that would feed into the chapter on ‘narratives’ of the White Paper on GSS

The second part was a world cafe hosted by the European officials of Futurium. It made use of stakeholders feedback in order to define long-term visions (around 2040-50) on ICT-related policies beyond 2020. It consisted of parallel brainstorming sessions (tables) where all participants could intervene. The flow of the conversation was articulated around the following topics:
• What role can narratives play to get all of society to understand the impact of science and adjust people’s behaviour consequently?
• How can scientists develop improved narratives for engagement?
• What role can ICT play to enhance such engagement?
The topics were placed on Futurium upfront so that participants could start shaping questions and ideas ahead of the event, post background information, or even propose new topics.

You can download a list of all participants with accompanying biographies here.

You can find a copy of the draft agenda here

As part of the preparation for the workshop we asked the participants to share their visions about how ICT can be used in the future to build narratives. Here's what they said:

Ilan Chabay: Narratives in the context of Global Systems Science and ICT

Ernest Radal: The pen is mightier than the sword!

Kat F Austen: Narratives and scientific journalism

Leonardo Camiciotti: Time to #breedge

Ross Mounce: ICT to visualize science and engage society

Ilona Heldal: How narratives can be used in the future to communicate complex messages to external stakeholders?

Stefan Michalowski: Narratives as a Communication Tool for Scientists

László Gulyás: Playing with Complex Scenarios: Improving the Public Dialogue by Participatory Social Simulation

Ariane Koek: Telling It How It Is/n't - How you envisage the use of narratives to communicate science in the future.

Antonio Scarponi: Story Telling Devices

David Lane: Models, Narratives and Art

Miranda Schreurs: The German Energiewende: Framing an Energy Transition as a Solution to Climate Change, Energy Import Dependence, and Technological Innovation and Renewal

Here are some fantastic presentations from the day:

Antonio Scarponi - Storytelling Devices

Ariane Koek - Creative Collisions: Between the Arts and Science

Miranda Schreurs - Communicating Climate Change and the Policy Process

Matthieu Litaert - The Brussels Business

Ilona Heldal - Using New Media to Support Collaboration

Ilan Chabay - Psycho-Social Determinants of Pro-Environmental Behaviour

Kat Austen - Narratives/Science

Leonardo Camiciotti - Time to #Breedge

Steven Bishop - Scientific Narrative for Policy Decision Making

Euclid Network - Visions in Global Systems Science: Narratives as a Communication Tool for Scientists

Alberto Lusoli - Engaging Society through Games and Gamification

See a series of short presentations from our experts on our YouTube channel:




See a blog entry written by participant, Ernest Radal, here

Narratives have been built, embodying ICT, on various occasions, in order to foster behavioural change. Usually ICT has not only been the tool for building narrative but has been an integral part of the process.

The examples below show, how ICT has been used in different ways to achieve a certain social goal. ICT there has not only been used to inform people, but also to empower them, giving them better control and enabling them to compare themselves with their peers.

Energy savings

Opower ( ) is an American foundation that developed an integrated set of tools using smart meters and ICT to foster consumer’s control over energy expenses. It also lets them compete with their neighbours about their saving targets therefore introducing competition to reach the target.

On their website they state:  

Energy efficiency experts around the country know that motivating customers to take action is one of the main challenges to achieving large scale energy savings. Participation rates in most energy-efficiency programs are typically less than 5%. By contrast, our flagship Home Energy Reporting program triggers energy-saving actions in up to 80% of targeted households, delivering unprecedented results.
The secret to our success? A patent-pending, customer-engagement approach that leverages cutting-edge behavioral science, customer data analytics and the latest software to engage millions of utilities customers.”

Here is an article on how it started and about the underlying philosophy:

Also the UK government has used competition elements in their energy saving policy for governmental buildings, using ICT as part of the process:

Social norms can be powerful motivators of behaviour change. The Cabinet Office and DECC drew upon this knowledge to encourage departments to take action.

Examples of ways in which social norms have been used to change behaviour include the following:

• Publishing monthly performance league tables showing progress towards the pan-government target. These were discussed by the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O’Donnell, at his meetings with Permanent Secretaries. This introduced a competitive element to departmental performance and a strong incentive for departments to avoid the reputational loss of being seen to perform poorly on the Prime Minister’s commitment.

• Real-time displays were installed in 19 Whitehall HQ buildings, feeding online reports of energy use. Again, this has helped to ensure that awareness of the programme has been maintained, while also giving departments much richer data about their ongoing performance.

• A competition was held in October 2010 to see which HQ building could save the most energy, relative to the previous month. Details of how the winning department achieved savings were circulated to departments to help to reinforce this behaviour as a social norm.

Health Care

Health care is another example where ICT was used to build narratives that foster positive behavioural change. In Uganda for example women tend to give birth at home (61%), when given access to information, actively using ICT it could be observed that only 12.1% of all women, using these new tools have been given birth at home:

ICT tools for BCC (Behavior Change Communication)
Health Child in addition utilizes ICT tools for Behavior Change Communication (BCC) that include short videos, recorded drama sessions, digital stories, Text messaging using mobile phones to reach out to the pregnant mothers.
The preliminary results have revealed an increase in honoring of antenatal appointments by the pregnant mothers, majority of which are testifying that they will give birth in a health facility. Data from one of the health facilities that Health Child is collaborating with reveals that out of 41 deliveries that have taken place so far, 87.9 percent took place in health facilities higher than the current national average of 39 percent.

Euclid Network is supported by the European Commission through the Europe for Citizens programme 2014-20.

Euclid Network, Regents Wharf, 2nd Floor, 8 All Saints Street, London, N1 9RL Tel: +44(0) 20 7014 4618, |