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Science in the Swiss public: the state of science communication and public engagement with science in Switzerland

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Science communication and public engagement with science have repeatedly been called for in recent years, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, die Swiss Academies of the Arts and Sciences have set up an expert group to assess the state of science communication in Switzerland, and to provide recommendations for how to improve it. The expert group report is based on a comprehensive review of the available interdisciplinary scholarship analyzing science communication and public engagement with science in Switzerland. Selectively, it also incorporates original data, international findings, and secondary analyses where little or no published scholarly work was available. The report covers a wide range of facets of science communication and public engagement in Switzerland, from public attitudes towards science over individuals and organizations engaging in science communication and engagement formats to news and social media representations of science. On this basis, it formulates 20 recommendations for improving science communication in Switzerland.
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Year: 2021
Science in the Swiss public: the state of science communication and public
engagement with science in Switzerland
Schäfer, Mike S ; Füchslin, Tobias ; Casutt, Gian-Andri ; Suggs, Suzanne ; Aberer, Karl ; Burkard,
Philipp ; Godinho, Ana ; Hirschi, Caspar ; Jacobs, Angelika ; Jarren, Otfried ; Kaufmann, Alain ;
Knutti, Reto ; Maier, Michaela ; Metag, Julia ; Müller, Thomas ; Strasser, Bruno ; Weichselbraun,
Abstract: Science communication and public engagement with science have repeatedly been called for in
recent years, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, die Swiss Academies of the Arts
and Sciences have set up an expert group to assess the state of science communication in Switzerland,
and to provide recommendations for how to improve it. The expert group report is based on a compre-
hensive review of the available interdisciplinary scholarship analyzing science communication and public
engagement with science in Switzerland. Selectively, it also incorporates original data, international
ndings, and secondary analyses where little or no published scholarly work was available. The report
covers a wide range of facets of science communication and public engagement in Switzerland, from pub-
lic attitudes towards science over individuals and organizations engaging in science communication and
engagement formats to news and social media representations of science. On this basis, it formulates 20
recommendations for improving science communication in Switzerland.
Posted at the Zurich Open Repository and Archive, University of Zurich
Published Research Report
Published Version
The following work is licensed under a Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Originally published at:
Schäfer, Mike S; Füchslin, Tobias; Casutt, Gian-Andri; Suggs, Suzanne; Aberer, Karl; Burkard, Philipp;
Godinho, Ana; Hirschi, Caspar; Jacobs, Angelika; Jarren, Otfried; Kaufmann, Alain; Knutti, Reto; Maier,
Michaela; Metag, Julia; Müller, Thomas; Strasser, Bruno; Weichselbraun, Albert (2021). Science in the
Swiss public: the state of science communication and public engagement with science in Switzerland.
Bern: Akademien der Wissenschaften Schweiz.
Vol. 16, No. 8, 2021
swiss academies
Science in the Swiss Public
The State of Science
Communication and Public
Engagement with Science
in Switzerland
Publication details
Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences • Laupenstrasse 7 • Postfach • 3001 Bern, Switzerland
+41 31 306 92 20 • •
academies_ch swiss_academies Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences
Prof. Dr. Mike S. Schäfer
University of Zurich, IKMZ – Department of Communication & Media Research
Andreasstrasse 15, CH-8050 Zurich, Switzerland
+41 44 635 20 80 •
• Prof. Dr. Mike S. Schäfer, University of Zurich
• Dr. Tobias Füchslin, Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences
• Gian-Andri Casutt, ETH-Board
• Prof. Dr. L. Suzanne Suggs, Università della Svizzera italiana
• Prof. Dr. Karl Aberer, EPFL
• Dr. Philipp Burkard, Science et Cité
• Dr. Ana Godinho, CERN
• Prof. Dr. Caspar Hirschi, University of St. Gallen
• Dr. Angelika Jacobs, Swiss Association of Science Journalism
• Prof. Dr. Ot fried Jarren, University of Zurich
• Prof. Dr. Alain Kaufmann, University of L ausanne
• Prof. Dr. Reto Knut ti, ETH Zurich
• Prof. Dr. Michaela Maier, University of Koblenz and Landau
• Prof. Dr. Julia Metag, University of Münster
• Thomas Müller, SRF Radio
• Prof. Dr. Bruno Strasser, Universit y of Geneva
• Prof. Dr. Albert Weichselbraun, University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons
• Salome Leandra Bosshard, University of Zurich
• Elisabeth Alfs-Lapraz, Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences
Carnegie Fund Services S.A.
Push’n’Pull, Bern
Vögeli AG, Langnau
1st edition, 2021 (500 EN). Report can be obtained free of charge from the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences.
Copyright: ©2021 Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences. This is an open-access publication, licensed under the
Creative Commons Attribution license ( The content of this publication
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source are appropriately acknowledged.
Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences (2021) Science in the Swiss Public. The State of Science Communication
and Public Engagement with Science in Switzerland. Swiss Academies Reports 16 (8). 10.5281/zeno-
ISSN (print) 2297-8275
ISSN (online) 2297-184X
Report of the Expert Group “Communicating
Sciences and Arts in Times of Digital Media” of
the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences
Science in the Swiss Public
The State of Science
Communication and Public
Engagement with Science
in Switzerland
SDGs: The international sustainability goals of the UNO
With this publication, the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences make a contribution to the
SDG 4 „Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning and
opportunities for all“ and to the SDG 9 „Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and
sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.
Swiss Academies Repo rts, Vol. 16 , N° 8, 20 21
Executive Summary
Background: Science communication and
public engagement with science have repeat-
edly been called for in recent years, particu-
larly during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are
important because scientific expertise mat-
ters for many individual, organizational and
societal decisions, but also because science
and research rely on public acceptance and
societal legitimation. But a comprehensive
assessment of science communication and
public engagement with science in Switzer-
land does not yet exist.
Mandate of the Expert Group: The Swiss Acad-
emies of Arts and Sciences set up the expert
group “Communicating Sciences and Arts in
Times of Digital Media” with a twofold man-
date: First, it was asked to assess the status
quo of science communication and public en-
gagement with science in Switzerland broadly
and systematically. Second, the expert group
was mandated to identify potential improve-
ments as well as recommendation for how to
realize those improvements. Both the status
quo assessment and the recommendations
are part of this report.
Method: The report is based on a comprehen-
sive review of the available interdisciplinary
scholarship analyzing science communica-
tion and public engagement with science in
Switzerland. Selectively, the report also incor-
porates original data, international findings,
and secondary analyses where little or no
published scholarly work was available. A first
draft of the report was externally evaluated
via pre-publication public review of preprint
chapters on the “Open Science Framework
repository. A second draft of the report was
sent out for pre-publication peer review to
four internationally renowned scholars with
expertise in science communication and
public engagement who are familiar with the
Swiss situation.
Results: Overall, the report covers a wide
range of facets of science communication and
public engagement in Switzerland, from pub-
lic attitudes towards science over individuals
and organizations engaging in science com-
munication and engagement formats to news
and social media representations of science:
CHAPTER 1 Science-related Perceptions
of the Swiss Population and their Sources of
Information and Contact with Science
The Swiss population associates “science
and research” mostly with medicine and
STEM disciplines.
The Swiss population perceives science
positively. Trust in science and scientists
in Switzerland is high and seems stable
over time.
Most Swiss residents are knowledgeable
about science and well equipped to
understand science-related content.
The Swiss population expects scientists to
communicate to the public.
But while public attitudes towards science
are favorable in general, perceptions vary
between different scientific topics and
different subgroups of the population.
The Swiss population regularly encounters
science in their lives and through a broad
set of media – most often online.
CHAPTER 2 From Individual to Organizational
Science Communicators: Who Engages with
the Swiss Public?
Most scientists think it is necessary and
worthwhile to communicate and engage
with the public.
Scientists’ actual communication and
engagement efforts do not match these
positive views towards science communi-
cation, however.
4 Swiss Academies Repor ts, Vol. 16, N ° 8, 202 1
Social and organizational factors influence
scientists’ public communication and
Clear differences in public communication
and engagement exist between scholars
depending on their discipline, seniority,
and gender.
Institutions of higher education and
scientific organizations have strongly
emphasized, professionalized and
expanded their public communication
efforts in recent years.
A broad range of other communicators
– from museums over science centers to
political, corporate and other stakeholders
communicate about science-related issues.
Only few Swiss influencers exist on social
media that focus on science.
CHAPTER 3 Science Journalism in
Journalists from various beats and back-
grounds cover science-related topics and,
thus, contribute to science journalism.
Most specialized science journalists aim
to provide objective information and
orientation, and do not primarily aim to be
watchdogs of science.
Science journalism is facing significant
challenges in the changing media
ecosystem in Switzerland, and specialized
science journalism is declining: There are
about 100 specialized science journalists
in the country, and only a small number
of media houses featuring science
desks. Science journalists work under
increasingly challenging conditions.
Several new models of science journalism
are currently tried in Switzerland, aiming
to balance editorial independence and
high quality with economic sustainability.
CHAPTER 4 Digital Platforms: The Role of
Google, Facebook and Co.
A lot of science-related content of strongly
varying quality is available online and in
social media.
Digital platforms have become important
and strongly used but, for many, also
less trusted sources of information about
For younger people, social media and
particularly YouTube are important
sources of science-related content.
Platform architectures influence user
perceptions and actions, sometimes with
undesirable consequences for science
Digital platforms facilitate mis- and
disinformation on scientific issues online,
but also offer notable opportunities
for science communication, e.g. for
movement mobilization.
CHAPTER 5 How Science is Publicly
Presented and Discussed in Switzerland
A variety of participatory and dialogical
science communication formats are
available to the Swiss public.
The share of science-related news media
coverage has risen in Switzerland in past
decades. Science-related topics account
for 1-3% of Swiss news media coverage.
Scholars, themes, and disciplines from the
arts and social sciences are prominent in
Swiss media.
News media coverage focuses strongly on
a small number of individual scientists.
News media reporting on science seems
to be mostly accurate, but is vulnerable
to biased framing and to the influence of
organizational PR.
Swiss Academies Repo rts, Vol. 16 , N° 8, 20 21
The internet is the most likely source for
the Swiss population to encounter inaccu-
rate scientific content.
CHAPTER 6 Recommendations for Science
Communication and Public Engagement
with Science in Switzerland
Science communication should be an
accepted part of science and valorized
accordingly. Scholars should be offered
training and social, psychological and
legal support where necessary.
Science communication should be
dialogical where possible. Scholars should
understand the perspectives of the public.
Research into science communication
should be fostered and translated into
evidence-based science communication.
Communication between science and
politics needs to be strengthened and
Science journalism needs to be
strengthened – in public service and
traditional media houses and among
A news funding infrastructure is needed
to support science journalism in
While the report compiles a considerable
amount of scholarship on these aspects in
Switzerland, it also highlighted many gaps
and biases in existing research. Broader, com-
prehensive assessments of science communi-
cation and public engagement with science in
Switzerland as well as trend analysis tracking
potential changes over time are largely lack-
ing. Future research on science communica-
tion and public engagement with science in
Switzerland should remedy these gaps.
6 Swis s Academies Re ports, Vol. 16, N° 8, 2021
Hintergrund: Wissenschaftskommunikation
und gesellschaftliches Engagement mit der
Wissenschaft wurden in den letzten Jahren
wiederholt gefordert, insbesondere während
der COVID-19-Pandemie. Sie sind wichtig, weil
wissenschaftliche Expertise für viele indivi-
duelle, organisatorische und gesellschaftliche
Entscheidungen von Bedeutung ist, aber auch,
weil Wissenschaft auf gesellschaftliche Akzep-
tanz und Legitimation angewiesen sind. Eine
umfassende Bestandsaufnahme der Wissen-
schaftskommunikation und des gesellschaft-
lichen Engagements mit der Wissenschaft in
der Schweiz gab es bislang allerdings nicht.
Mandat der Expertengruppe: Die Akademien
der Wissenschaften Schweiz haben die Ex-
pert:innengruppe «Communicating Sciences
and Arts in Times of Digital Media» mit einem
doppelten Mandat eingesetzt: Erstens soll
sie den Status quo von Wissenschaskom-
munikation und gesellschalichem Engage-
ments mit der Wissenscha in der Schweiz
systematisch erfassen. Zweitens soll sie
Verbesserungspotenziale identizieren und
entsprechende Empfehlungen erarbeiten. So-
wohl die Erfassung des Status quo als auch
die abgeleiteten Empfehlungen sind Teil die-
ses Berichts.
Methode: Der Bericht basiert auf einer um-
fassenden Sichtung der interdisziplinären
Forschung zu Wissenschaftskommunikation
und gesellschaftlichem Engagement mit der
Wissenschaft in der Schweiz. Zu Aspekten, zu
denen wenige veröffentlichte wissenschaft-
liche Arbeiten verfügbar waren, bezieht der
Bericht auch Primärdaten, internationale Be-
funde und Sekundäranalysen ein. Ein erster
Entwurf des Berichts wurde öffentlich eva-
luiert, indem Preprints der einzelnen Kapitel
auf dem «Open Science Framework»-Reposi-
tory abgelegt und Stakeholder um Feedback
gebeten wurden. Ein überarbeiteter Entwurf
des Berichts wurde dann von vier interna-
tional renommierten Wissenschaftler:innen
mit einschlägiger Expertise und Kenntnis der
Schweizer Situation begutachtet.
Ergebnisse: Der Bericht deckt vielfältige Fa-
cetten der Wissenschaftskommunikation und
des öffentlichen Engagements in der Schweiz
ab – von öffentlichen Einstellungen zu Wis-
senschaft über individuelle und organisatio-
nale Wissenschaftskommunikator:innen bis
hin zu Darstellungen von Wissenschaft in
journalistischen Medien und sozialen Medien:
KAPITEL 1 Wissenschaftsbezogene Wahr-
nehmungen der Schweizer Bevölkerung,
ihre Informationsquellen und Kontakte mit
Die Schweizer Bevölkerung assoziiert
«Wissenschaft und Forschung» hauptsäch-
lich mit Medizin und MINT-Disziplinen.
Die Schweizer Bevölkerung nimmt Wissen-
schaft positiv wahr. Das Vertrauen in
Wissenschaft und Wissenschaftler:innen
ist hoch und scheint über die Zeit stabil
zu sein.
Die meisten Schweizer:innen wissen über
Wissenschaft Bescheid und sind fähig, wis-
senschaftsbezogene Inhalte zu verstehen.
Die Schweizer Bevölkerung erwartet von
Wissenschaftler:innen, dass sie mit der
Öffentlichkeit kommunizieren.
Obwohl die Einstellung der Bevölkerung
gegenüber der Wissenschaft allgemein
positiv ist, variieren diese Einstellungen
bei verschiedenen wissenschaftlichen For-
schungs- und Anwendungsfeldern sowie
zwischen Untergruppen der Bevölkerung.
Die Schweizer Bevölkerung begegnet der
Wissenschaft regelmässig in ihrem Leben
und in einer breiten Palette von Medien –
am häufigsten online.
Swiss Academies Repo rts, Vol. 16 , N° 8, 20 21
2 → Von individuellen zu organisa-
torischen Wissenschaftskommunikator:
innen: Wer kommuniziert mit der Schweizer
Die meisten Wissenschaftler:innen sind
bereit, mit der Öffentlichkeit zu kommuni-
Die tatsächlichen Kommunikationsbemü-
hungen von Wissenschaftler:innen bleiben
jedoch hinter diesen positiven Ansichten
zur Wissenschaftskommunikation zurück.
Soziale und organisatorische Faktoren
beeinflussen das kommunikative Engage-
ment von Wissenschaftler:innen.
Es gibt deutliche Unterschiede im kommu-
nikativen Engagement von Wissenschaft-
ler:innen je nach Disziplin, Seniorität und
Hochschulen und Wissenschaftsorganisa-
tionen haben ihre Aussenkommunikation
in den letzten Jahren priorisiert, professio-
nalisiert und ausgebaut.
Ein breites Spektrum weiterer Kommuni-
kator:innen – von Museen über Science
Center bis zu Politik, Unternehmen
und anderen Stakeholdern – kommuni-
zieren über wissenschaftsbezogene
In sozialen Medien gibt es nur wenige
Schweizerische Influencer zu Wissen-
3 → Wissenschaftsjournalismus in
der Schweiz
Journalisten:innen aus verschiedenen
Ressorts berichten über wissenschafts-
bezogene Themen und tragen so zum
Wissenschaftsjournalismus bei.
Schweizerische Wissenschaftsjournalist:in-
nen versuchen vornehmlich, objektiv zu
informieren und Orientierung zu bieten.
Kritik und Kontrolle der Wissenschaft
stehen dahinter zurück.
Angesichts des Medienwandels in der
Schweiz steht der Wissenschaftsjourna-
lismus vor grossen Herausforderungen
und erlebt einen Rückgang: Es gibt etwa
100 spezialisierte Wissenschaftsjourna-
listen:innen und nur eine kleine Anzahl
von Medienhäusern mit eigenen Wissen-
schaftsredaktionen. Die Arbeitsbedingun-
gen von Wissenschaftsjournalisten:innen
verschlechtern sich.
Derzeit werden in der Schweiz neue
Modelle des Wissenschaftsjournalismus
ausprobiert, die versuchen, redaktionelle
Unabhängigkeit und hohe Qualität mit
wirtschaftlicher Nachhaltigkeit in Einklang
zu bringen.
4 → Digitale Plattformen: Die Rolle
von Google, Facebook und Co.
Auf digitalen Plattformen sind viele
wissenschaftsbezogene Inhalte von stark
variierender Qualität verfügbar.
Digitale Plattformen sind wichtige und
stark genutzte, aber für Viele auch weniger
vertrauenswürdige Informationsquellen
zu Wissenschaftsthemen.
Für jüngere Menschen sind soziale Medien
und insbesondere YouTube wichtige
Quellen für Wissenschaftsthemen.
Die Architektur digitaler Plattformen
beeinflusst die Wahrnehmungen und
Handlungen der Nutzer:innen, teils mit
unerwünschten Folgen für die Wissen-
Digitale Plattformen erleichtern die Ver-
breitung von Dis- und Misinformation zu
Wissenschaftsthemen, bieten aber auch
neue Möglichkeiten für die Wissenschafts-
kommunikation, z.B. für die Mobilisierung
sozialer Bewegungen.
8 Swiss A cademies Rep orts, Vol. 16, N° 8, 2 021
5 → Wie Wissenschaft in der Schweiz
öffentlich präsentiert und diskutiert wird
Der Schweizer Bevölkerung steht eine
Vielzahl partizipativer und dialogischer
Formate der Wissenschaftskommunikation
zur Verfügung.
Der Anteil der wissenschaftsbezogenen
Berichterstattung in Schweizer Medien ist
in den letzten Jahrzehnten angestiegen.
Wissenschaftsbezogene Themen machen
1-3% der Berichterstattung von Schweizer
Nachrichtenmedien aus.
Forscher:innen und Themen aus den
Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften sind in
Schweizer Medien prominent vertreten.
Die Wissenschaftsberichterstattung der
Schweizer Nachrichtenmedien konzentriert
sich auf eine kleine Zahl einzelner Wissen-
Die Berichterstattung der Nachrichten-
medien über Wissenschaft ist überwie-
gend akkurat. Sie ist aber anfällig für ein
verzerrtes Framing und den Einfluss von
organisationaler PR.
Das Internet ist die wahrscheinlichste
Quelle, in der die Schweizer Bevölkerung
auf inkorrekte wissenschaftsbezogene
Inhalte stösst.
6 → Empfehlungen für Wissen
schaftskommunikation und gesellschaftli-
ches Engagement mit Wissenschaft in
der Schweiz
Wissenschaftskommunikation sollte ein
akzeptierter Teil der Wissenschaft sein und
aufgewertet werden. Wissenschaftler:in-
nen sollten entsprechend geschult und bei
Bedarf sozial, psychologisch und juristisch
unterstützt werden.
Wissenschaftskommunikation sollte dia-
logisch stattfinden. Wissenschaftler:innen
sollten die Perspektiven der Öffentlichkeit
Wissenschaftskommunikation sollte die
spezifischen Werte der Wissenschaft, wie
Kritik und intellektuelle Offenheit, zum
Ausdruck bringen und die Vielfalt der Wis-
senschaft widerspiegeln.
Forschung zu Wissenschaftskommunika-
tion sollte gefördert und in evidenzbasierte
Wissenschaftskommunikation umgesetzt
Die Kommunikation zwischen Wissenschaft
und Politik muss gestärkt und institutiona-
lisiert werden.
Wissenschaftsjournalismus sollte gestärkt
werden – im öffentlichen Rundfunk, in tra-
ditionellen Medienhäusern sowie bei freien
Eine neue Infrastruktur zur Förderung des
Wissenschaftsjournalismus in der Schweiz
ist notwendig.
Während der Bericht eine grosse Zahl wissen-
schaftlicher Arbeiten zusammenstellt, zeigt er
auch zahlreiche Lücken und Verzerrungen in
der Forschung zu Wissenschaftskommuni-
kation in der Schweiz auf. Umfassende Be-
wertungen der Wissenschaftskommunikation
und gesellschaftlichen Engagements mit Wis-
senschaft in der Schweiz sowie Trendanaly-
sen, die Veränderungen im Zeitverlauf nach-
zeichnen, fehlen weitgehend. Diese Lücken
sollten künftig geschlossen werden.
Swiss Academies Repo rts, Vol. 16 , N° 8, 20 21
Contexte : La communication scientifique et le
dialogue entre le public et la science se sont
révélés nécessaires à maintes reprises ces der-
nières années, notamment lors de la pandémie
de COVID-19. Ces thématiques sont importantes
car de nombreuses décisions individuelles, or-
ganisationnelles et sociétales reposent sur
l’expertise scientifique, mais également parce
que la science et la recherche dépendent de
l’acceptation du public et de la légitimation so-
ciétale. Toutefois, en Suisse, il n’existe encore
aucune évaluation approfondie de la commu-
nication scientifique et du dialogue entre le pu-
blic et la science.
Mandat du groupe d’expert·e·s : Les Académies
suisses des sciences ont confié un double man-
dat au groupe d’expert·e·s « Communicating
Sciences and Arts in Times of Digital Media » :
il a d’abord été chargé d’évaluer le statu quo
de la communication scientifique et du dia-
logue entre le public et la science en Suisse, de
manière générale et systématique. Ensuite, le
groupe d’expert·e·s a également été mandaté
pour identifier les améliorations potentielles
ainsi que les recommandations concernant la
manière de réaliser ces améliorations. Aussi
bien l’évaluation du statu quo que les recom-
mandations font parties de ce rapport.
Méthode : Le rapport est basé sur un examen
approfondi des études interdisciplinaires dispo-
nibles analysant la communication scientifique
et le dialogue entre le public et la science en
Suisse. Lorsque peu de travaux académiques
publiés sont disponibles ou qu’il n’y en a pas, le
rapport inclut également, de manière sélective,
des données originales, des résultats interna-
tionaux ainsi que des analyses secondaires.
Avant la publication, une première version du
rapport a fait l’objet d’une évaluation externe
par le biais d’un examen public des chapitres
prépubliés sur la plate-forme « Open Science
Framework ». Une deuxième version du rapport
a été envoyée pour révision à quatre expert·e·s
de renommée internationale possédant une
expérience dans la communication scientifique
et le dialogue entre le public et la science et
connaissant bien le contexte suisse.
Résultats : Dans l’ensemble, le rapport aborde
un large éventail de thématiques liées à la
communication scientifique et au dialogue avec
le public en Suisse, des attitudes du public en-
vers la science à la représentation de la science
dans l’actualité et les réseaux sociaux, en
passant par la communication scientifique au
niveau individuel et organisationnel ainsi
qu’aux différentes formes que prend le dia-
CHAPITRE 1 Façon dont la population suisse
perçoit la science et sources d’information et
de contact en lien avec la science
La population suisse associe principale-
ment la « science et la recherche » avec la
médecine et les disciplines MINT.
La population suisse perçoit la science de
manière positive. La confiance accordée à
la science et aux scientifiques est élevée et
semble rester stable.
La plupart des résident·e·s suisses ont
des connaissances scientifiques et sont
en mesure de comprendre un contenu
La population suisse s’attend à ce que les
scientifiques communiquent avec le public.
Cependant, alors que les attitudes du
public envers la science sont générale-
ment favorables, les perceptions varient
en fonction des sujets scientifique et des
différents groupes de la population.
La population suisse est régulièrement
exposée à la science dans son quotidien et
par le biais d’un large éventail de médias,
le plus souvent en ligne.
10 Swiss Academies Reports , Vol. 16, N° 8, 20 21
2 → Communication scientifique :
du niveau individuel au niveau organisa-
tionnel. Qui communique avec le public
suisse ?
La plupart des scientifiques pensent qu’il
est nécessaire et utile de communiquer
avec le public.
Les efforts de la part des scientifiques en
matière de communication et de dialogue
ne correspondent toutefois pas à cette
vision positive de la communication scien-
Les facteurs sociétaux et organisationnels
influencent la manière dont les scientifiques
communiquent et échangent avec le public.
Des différences notoires dans la façon de
communiquer et d’échanger avec le public
existent entre les spécialistes en fonction
de leur discipline, de leur ancienneté et de
leur genre.
Au cours des dernières années, les éta-
blissements d’enseignement supérieur
et les organisations scientifiques se sont
concentrés sur la communication au public
tout en cherchant à la professionnaliser et
à la développer.
Il existe également de nombreux autres
vecteurs de la communication scientifique,
à l’instar des musées, des centres scienti-
fiques et de divers autres intervenant·e·s,
par exemple au niveau politique ou des
Sur les réseaux sociaux, peu d’influen-
ceurs·ceuses suisses se concentrent sur
la science.
3 → Journalisme scientifique en
Les sujets scientifiques sont couverts
par des journalistes issu·e·s de différents
milieux et qui contribuent donc au journa-
lisme scientifique.
La plupart des journalistes spécialisé·e·s
dans la science cherchent à fournir des
informations et une orientation objectives
et n’ont pas nécessairement pour but de
défendre la science.
Le journalisme scientifique fait face à
d’importants défis en lien avec les chan-
gements du secteur médiatique suisse ; le
journalisme scientifique spécialisé est en
train de disparaître. Il existe une centaine
de journalistes scientifiques spécialisé·e·s
dans le pays, et seules quelques maisons
de presse comprennent une division
scientifique. Les journalistes scientifiques
travaillent dans des conditions de plus en
plus difficiles.
Actuellement, de nouveaux modèles de
journalisme scientifique sont à l’essai en
Suisse. Ils visent à donner un équilibre
entre l’indépendance éditoriale, une qualité
élevée et la viabilité économique.
4 → Plateformes numériques : le rôle
de Google, Facebook et autres
En ligne et sur les réseaux sociaux, on
trouve beaucoup de contenu scientifique
de qualité très variable.
Les plateformes numériques ont pris de
l’importance et sont très utilisées, mais
elles représentent également des sources
d’information moins fiables.
Pour les jeunes, les réseaux sociaux et tout
particulièrement YouTube sont des sources
d’information importantes en matière de
contenu scientifique.
L’architecture des plateformes influence la
perception et les actions des utilisateurs,
ce qui peut parfois avoir des conséquences
négatives sur la communication scienti-
Bien que les plateformes numériques
ouvrent la voie à la désinformation et
Swiss Academies Repo rts, Vol. 16 , N° 8, 20 21
aux fake news, elles offrent toutefois des
opportunités remarquables pour la com-
munication scientifique, par exemple en
ce qui concerne la mobilisation pour des
5 → Façon dont la science est
présentée au public et débattue en Suisse
Différents supports de communication
participative et dialogique sont offerts au
public suisse.
Au cours des dernières décennies, la
couverture médiatique des thématiques
scientifiques a pris de l’ampleur en Suisse.
Les sujets scientifiques représentent entre
1 et 3 % de l’actualité suisse.
Les expert·e·s, les thématiques et les
disciplines liées aux arts et aux sciences
sociales sont très présent·e·s dans les
médias suisses.
L’actualité se focalise sur quelques scienti-
fiques en particulier.
Les médias traitant de sujets scientifiques
semblent fournir des informations plutôt
exactes, mais ils sont susceptibles d’être
partiaux et peuvent être influencés par les
relations publiques des organisations.
Internet est la principale source de contenu
scientifique inexact en Suisse.
CHAPITRE 6 Recommandations en matière
de communication scientifique et de
dialogue entre le public et la science en
La communication scientifique devrait
être reconnue comme faisant partie de la
science, et être valorisée en conséquence.
Si nécessaire, les expert·e·s devraient
pouvoir recevoir une formation dans ce
domaine ainsi qu’un soutien social, psy-
chologique et juridique.
La communication scientifique devrait,
dans la mesure du possible, être dia-
logique. Les expert·e·s devraient être à
même de comprendre le point de vue du
La recherche dans le domaine de la com-
munication scientifique devrait être encou-
ragée et appliquée de manière concrète.
La communication entre la science et la
politique doit être renforcée et institution-
Le journalisme scientifique doit être renfor-
cé aussi bien auprès du public que des
entreprises médiatiques traditionnelles et
des journalistes indépendant· e· s.
Afin de soutenir le journalisme scientifique
en Suisse, il est nécessaire de mettre en
place une infrastructure de financement.
Bien que le rapport fait état de très vastes
connaissances sur ces thématiques en
Suisse, il met également en évidence les la-
cunes et les partis pris au sein de la recherche
existante. Des évaluations plus larges et com-
plètes de la communication scientifique et
du dialogue entre le public et la science en
Suisse, ainsi que des analyses de tendances
permettant de suivre les changements poten-
tiels dans le temps, font grandement défaut.
Les futures recherches relatives à la commu-
nication scientifique et au dialogue entre le
public et la science en Suisse devraient per-
mettre de combler ces lacunes.
12 Swiss A cademies Rep orts, Vol. 1 6, N° 8, 2 021
Contesto: la comunicazione della scienza e il
public engagement nella scienza sono stati ri-
petutamente invocati negli ultimi anni, in parti-
colare durante la pandemia di COVID-19. Il loro
ruolo è importante in quanto la competenza
scientifica svolge una funzione rilevante per
l’adozione di molte decisioni da parte di indivi-
dui, organizzazioni e società. Inoltre, la scienza
e la ricerca dipendono dall’accettazione e dalla
legittimazione da parte della società. Tuttavia,
in Svizzera non esiste ancora una valutazione
completa della comunicazione della scienza e
del public engagement nella scienza.
Mandato del gruppo di esperte ed esperti: le
Accademie svizzere delle scienze hanno isti-
tuito il gruppo di esperte ed esperti «Commu-
nicating Sciences and Arts in Times of Digital
Media» affidandogli un duplice mandato: effet-
tuare una valutazione sistematica ad ampio
raggio dello stato della comunicazione della
scienza e del public engagement nella scien-
za in Svizzera, nonché identicare possibili
miglioramenti ed elaborare raccomandazioni
per la loro realizzazione. La valutazione e le
raccomandazioni sono oggetto del presente
Metodo: il rapporto si basa su una revisione a
tutto campo degli studi interdisciplinari dispo-
nibili che analizzano la comunicazione della
scienza e il public engagement in Svizzera. In
determinati casi, il documento include anche
dati originali, risultati di ricerche internaziona-
li e analisi secondarie nei casi in cui le opere
accademiche pubblicate siano scarse o inesi-
stenti. Una prima bozza del documento è stata
valutata pubblicamente mediante capitoli in
preprint depositati nel repository «Open Scien-
ce Framework». Una seconda bozza è stata
esaminata nell’ambito di una peer review da
quattro studiosi di fama internazionale con
competenze rilevanti e una conoscenza ap-
profondita della situazione svizzera.
Risultati: nel complesso, il rapporto copre una
serie di aspetti della comunicazione della scien-
za e del public engagement nella scienza in
Svizzera, dagli atteggiamenti del pubblico ver-
so la scienza, agli individui e alle organizzazioni
che si occupano di comunicazione scientifica e
forme di engagement, alle notizie e alle rappre-
sentazioni della scienza nei social media.
CAPITOLO 1 Percezioni della popolazione
svizzera riguardo alla scienza e fonti di
informazione e contatto con la scienza
La popolazione svizzera associa «scienza
e ricerca» soprattutto alla medicina e alle
discipline STEM.
La popolazione svizzera ha una percezio-
ne positiva della scienza. La fiducia nella
scienza e negli scienziati in Svizzera è
elevata e appare stabile nel tempo.
La maggior parte dei residenti in Svizzera
è informata sulla scienza ed è in grado di
comprendere i contenuti scientifici.
La popolazione svizzera si aspetta che gli
scienziati effettuino attività di comunica-
zione con il pubblico.
Tuttavia, mentre il pubblico ha general-
mente un atteggiamento favorevole verso
la scienza, le percezioni variano a seconda
degli argomenti scientifici e dei sottogruppi
della popolazione.
Nel corso della vita, la popolazione svizze-
ra ha regolarmente contatti con la scienza
attraverso un’ampia gamma di media,
soprattutto Internet.
2 → Dai comunicatori scientifici
individuali a quelli associati a organizza-
zioni: chi comunica con il pubblico svizzero?
La maggior parte degli scienziati pensa
che sia necessario e utile comunicare con
il pubblico.
Swiss Academies Repo rts, Vol. 16 , N° 8, 20 21
Gli sforzi effettivi di comunicazione e
impegno degli scienziati non coincidono
però con queste opinioni positive verso la
comunicazione scientifica.
Fattori sociali e organizzativi influenzano
la comunicazione e il public engagement
degli scienziati.
Esistono chiare differenze nell’impegno
pubblico tra gli studiosi in base alla disci-
plina, all’età e al genere.
Le scuole universitarie e le organizzazioni
scientifiche hanno fortemente promosso,
professionalizzato e ampliato i loro sforzi
di comunicazione pubblica negli ultimi
Un ampio gruppo di altri attori (musei,
centri scientifici, politici, aziende e altri
stakeholder) comunica su argomenti di
natura scientifica.
Sui social media, sono pochi gli influencer
svizzeri che si occupano di scienza.
3 → Il giornalismo scientifico in
Gli argomenti di natura scientifica sono
trattati da giornalisti di diversi ambiti e
background, i quali forniscono un contribu-
ito al giornalismo scientifico.
La maggior parte dei giornalisti scientifici
specializzati mira a fornire informazioni
e orientamenti oggettivi e non si pone
principalmente come difensore della
Il giornalismo scientifico sta affrontando
sfide significative nel mutevole ecosistema
mediatico in Svizzera. Il giornalismo scien-
tifico specializzato è in declino: sono solo
un centinaio i giornalisti scientifici spe-
cializzati nel paese e soltanto un piccolo
numero di testate mediatiche ha redazioni
scientifiche. I giornalisti scientifici lavorano
in condizioni sempre più difficili.
Attualmente, in Svizzera si stanno speri-
mentando nuovi modelli di giornalismo
scientifico, con l’obiettivo di conciliare
l’indipendenza editoriale e l’elevata qualità
con la sostenibilità economica.
4 → Piattaforme digitali: il ruolo di
Google, Facebook e simili
Un ampio volume di contenuti scientifici di
qualità estremamente variabile è disponi-
bile online e sui social media.
Le piattaforme digitali hanno acquisito im-
portanza e sono largamente utilizzate ma,
per molti, sono diventate anche fonti meno
affidabili di informazioni sulla scienza.
Per i più giovani, i social media, e in par-
ticolare YouTube, sono fonti importanti di
contenuti relativi alla scienza.
Le architetture delle piattaforme influen-
zano le percezioni e le azioni degli utenti,
talvolta con conseguenze indesiderate per
la comunicazione scientifica.
Le piattaforme digitali facilitano la disinfor-
mazione e la misinformazione su argo-
menti scientifici ma offrono al contempo
notevoli opportunità per la comunicazione
scientifica, ad esempio per la mobilitazione
dei movimenti.
5 → Modalità di presentazione e
dibattito pubblico sulla scienza in Svizzera
Il pubblico svizzero ha a disposizione una
serie di formati di comunicazione scientifi-
ca basati sulla partecipazione e sul dialogo.
In Svizzera, la quota di copertura mediatica
su notizie legate alla scienza è aumentata
negli ultimi decenni e i temi relativi alla
scienza rappresentano l’1-3%.
Studiosi, temi e discipline delle scienze
umane e sociali sono in primo piano nei
media svizzeri.
14 Swiss Academi es Reports , Vol. 16, N° 8, 20 21
La copertura mediatica si concentra forte-
mente su un piccolo numero di scienziati.
Le informazioni su temi scientifici pubblica-
te sui media appaiono per lo più accurate
ma possono essere soggette a inquadra-
ture tendenziose e all’influenza delle PR
Internet è la fonte più probabile tramite
la quale la popolazione svizzera viene a
contatto con contenuti scientifici inaccurati.
CAPITOLO 6 Raccomandazioni per la
comunicazione della scienza e il public
engagement nella scienza in Svizzera
La comunicazione della scienza dovrebbe
essere accettata come parte integrante
della scienza e valorizzata di conseguenza.
Agli studiosi dovrebbero essere offerti
formazione e sostegno sociale, psicologico
e legale, ove necessario.
La comunicazione dovrebbe essere basata
sul dialogo, ove possibile. Gli studiosi
dovrebbero capire il punto di vista del
La ricerca sulla comunicazione della scien-
za dovrebbe essere promossa e tradotta
in una comunicazione scientifica basata
La comunicazione tra scienza e politica
deve essere rafforzata e istituzionalizzata.
Il giornalismo scientifico deve essere
rafforzato – nelle emittenti pubbliche,
nelle testate mediatiche tradizionali e tra i
giornalisti freelancer.
Serve un’infrastruttura di finanziamento
dell’informazione a supporto del giornali-
smo scientifico in Svizzera.
Il rapporto ha compilato una quantità consi-
derevole di studi scientifici, evidenziando al
contempo numerose lacune e distorsioni nel-
la ricerca sulla comunicazione della scienza
in Svizzera. Mancano valutazioni più ampie e
complete della comunicazione scientifica e del
public engagement nella scienza in Svizzera,
così come analisi delle tendenze nell’ambito di
un monitoraggio dei cambiamenti nel tempo.
In futuro, la ricerca sulla comunicazione della
scienza e il public engagement in Svizzera do-
vrebbe rimediare a queste lacune.
Swiss Academies Repo rts, Vol. 16 , N° 8, 20 21
16 Swiss Academies Reports , Vol. 16, N° 8, 20 21
Table of Content
I Introduction 18
I.I Relevance and Aim of this Report 18
I.II The Swiss Case 20
I.III Broad Understanding of Science Communication and Public
Engagement with Science 22
I.IV How the Report was Compiled as well as Publicly and Peer Reviewed 23
I.V Plan of the Report 23
1 Science-related Perceptions of the Swiss Population and their 26
Sources of Information and Contact with Science
1.1 Public Perceptions of Science in Switzerland: Knowledge, Interest,
and Trust 26
1.2 Contact with Science in Everyday Life, Museums, Events and
Participatory Formats 33
1.3. Contact with Science via News, Online and Social Media 36
2 From Individual to Organizational Science Communicators: 40
Who Engages with the Swiss Public?
2.1 Communication Activities and Public Engagement by Individual 40
2.2 Public Communication of Organizations of Science and Higher 43
2.3 Science Communicators beyond Institutionalized Science 48
3 Science Journalism in Switzerland 54
4 Digital Platforms: The Role of Google, Facebook and Co 60
Swiss Academies Repo rts, Vol. 16 , N° 8, 20 21
5 How Science is Publicly Presented and Discussed in Switzerland 64
5.1 Engagement Formats in Switzerland 64
5.2 News Media Presentations of Science in Switzerland 66
5.3 Mis- and Disinformation: How Correct are News Media and Online 72
Representations of Science?
6 Recommendations for Science Communication and Public 76
Engagement with Science in Switzerland
7 Appendix 86
7.1 Members of the Expert Group 86
7.2 Expert Group Coordinators 87
7.3 Reviewers for the Status Quo Report 87
7.4 Experts who Provided Information or Feedback for the Report 87
8 References 88
18 Swiss Academies Reports , Vol. 16, N° 8, 20 21
I. Introduction
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic illustrates both t he importance and the variety
of interactions between science a nd society. It has seen individual scientists as
well as national and regional advisory bodies like the Swiss National COVID-19
Science Task Force communicate research results to the public, comment on the
current situation and future developments, assess potential counter-measures,
and engage in discussions with decision-makers.
COVID-19 also demonstrated the considerable societal demand for information
about the pandemic. Decision-makers and stakeholders repeatedly called for re-
liable scientific assessments of the situation, and many Swiss citizens turned to
news media and social media regularly and intensively (Friemel, Geber & Egli,
2020; Rauchfleisch, Vogler & Eisenegger, 2020).
Correspondingly, news media coverage and social media communication rose
dramatically. Between March and May of 2020, almost 70% of news media re-
ports published in all linguistic regions of Switzerland touched upon the pan-
demic, mostly on epidemiological, virological and public health infor mation, on
the pandemic’s societal and economic implications and on (potential) political
countermeasures (fög, 2020b, 7ff.). It was flanked by an enormous amount of in-
formation online and in social media (World Health Organization, 2020).
The pandemic also demonstrated, however, that science, scientific expertise and
recommendations were perceived differently by members of the Swiss public.
While studies showed a pronounced trust in science and regulatory measures
during the pandemic, particularly in its early phase (gfs.bern, 2020; Science Ba-
rometer Switzerland, 2020; SRG SSR, 2020), they also indicated that t his support
decreased over time (SRG SSR, 2020), and that measures were met with skepti-
cism and opposition in some segments of the population from the outset (Friemel
et al., 2020; Rauchfleisch et al., 2020; Science Barometer Switzerland, 2020).
I.I Relevance and Aim of this Report
The COVID-19 pandemic is the most recent, and certainly one of the most press-
ing, examples for the impor tance of science communication and of public engage-
ment with science. But such interactions have taken place around other issues as
well in Switzerland, which has been described as a country with strong public
involvement in “science and technology decision-making” and an “emerging” sci-
ence communication culture (Mejlgaard, Bloch, Degn, Nielsen & Ravn, 2012). In
recent decades, sta rting with a 1998 referendum on gene technology (Bonfadelli,
1999), a large number of scientific or science-related issues have been debated in
the Swiss public, such as environmental pollution (Eisner, Moser & Graf, 2000), cli-
mate change (Bonfadelli, 2017a), nuclear energy (Kristiansen, 2017), biotechnology
Swiss Academies Repo rts, Vol. 16 , N° 8, 20 21
(Bonfadelli & Dahinden, 2002), animal experimentation (Crettaz von Roten, 2009)
or personalized medicine (Schweizer Akademien der Wissenschaften, 2020).
Monitoring these science-society interactions and their development is import-
ant – due to their described relevance, but also given the profound changes in the
socio-political and socio-cultural conditions shaping these interactions in other
countries (e.g., Fischhoff & Scheufele, 2013).
Scholars have described, for exa mple, that science com munication and public en-
gagement has become more common among scholars and scientific organizations
(e.g., Peters, 2013; Serong et al., 2017), and that more, and more diverse, stakehold-
ers communicate about science-related issues nowadays (e.g., Bubela et al., 2009).
Partly, this is due to digital and social media providing novel interfaces between
science and society (Dickel & Franzen, 2015). They enable individuals and organi-
zations – from scientific organizations over politicians, corporate representatives,
think tanks and NGOs to individual citizens – to produce original content and to
distribute it widely, circumventing journalistic gatekeepers (e.g., Neuberger, 2014).
It has also been described as the result of cha nging incentives within science:
Scientists and scientific organizations are increasingly asked to be more trans-
parent (e.g., Strasser, 2019, 263ff.), to legitimate themselves towards society, and
document their societal impact as part of a new “third mission” that is now added
to resea rch and teaching, and that focuses more strongly on the public and on so-
cietal outreach and impact (e.g., Laredo, 2007).
In addition, the surrounding media ecosystem is changing (for an overview see
Schäfer, 2017b). Many news media experience an economic crisis, with subscrip-
tion and advertisement revenue shrinking – in large part because platforms like
Google, Facebook, YouTube or Twitter now curate large amounts of communica-
tion, steer audience attention a nd siphon off advertisement revenue (e.g., Helmond,
2015). This affects specialized journalism like science reporting the hardest (e.g.,
Allan, 2011; Brumfiel, 2009), with media houses in many countries downsizing or
closing science desks because they are seen as expensive and as attracting smaller
audiences t han other desks (Dunwoody, 2014; Schäfer, 2017a).
Correspondingly, the communication patterns and media use of audiences are
changing, with online sources becoming more important also regarding informa-
tion about science (Brossard, 2013; Scheufele, 2018). At the same time, it is “be-
coming more difficult for many citizens to evaluate the credibility and accuracy
of content they encounter”, even if they intend to do so, “because its sources can
be opaque, and because it comes with new contextual cues like likes or user com-
ments that influence credibility assessments” (Schäfer, 2017a, p. 56). Numerous
scientists, scientific organizations, science policymakers a nd stakeholders assume
that these changes lead to a loss of societal support for science, diagnosing an
age of mis- or disinformation, of “post-truth” and “alter native facts” (e.g., ALLEA,
2018, 2019a; 2021).
20 Swiss Academi es Reports , Vol. 16, N° 8, 20 21
To adequately assess these changes and their implications, it is necessary to sys-
tematically monitor the status quo and current developments in science commu-
nication and public engagement with science. Such assessments exist in many
countries, sometimes coupled with explicit recommendations. In the US, exam-
ples are t he working groups, Sackler Colloquia and reports of the National Acade-
mies of Science, Engineering and Medicine as well as the science communication
initiatives of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (Fischhoff
& Scheufele, 2013). In the UK, the Royal Society has focused on science-society
interactions for decades in working groups and reports, and bodies like the Royal
Academy of Engineering have taken up the issue as well (e.g., Royal Society, 2006).
In Ger many, several scientific academies – such as acatech, the Berlin-Branden-
burg Academy of Science and Humanities (BBAW) or the Leopoldina – suppor t
interdisciplinary working groups and reports on the issue (e.g., Union of the Ger-
man Academies of Sciences and Humanities, 2017). Similar initiatives exist in
Ireland (e.g., Murphy, 2020), China (e.g., Lin & Honglin, 2020), other countries and
on the European level (ALLEA, 2018, 2019a, 2019b).
But such an assessment does not yet exist in Switzerland. Therefore, the Swiss
Academies of Arts and Sciences has set up the expert group “Communicating
Sciences and Arts in Times of Digital Media” (for information about its compo-
sition see the appendix of this report) in 2019 with a twofold mandate:
1. First, the expert group was mandated to assess the status quo of science
communication and public communication in Switzerland broadly and
systematically, characterizing the specifics of the Swiss situation, drawing
on scholarly work and expert assessments to provide an overview over the
current situation in the country and judging the applicability of findings
from similar initiatives in other countries. CHAPTERS 1 TO 5 of the report at
hand are the result of this first step and provide such an overview.
2. Second, the expert group was ma ndated to identify potential improve-
ments as well as recommendations for how to realize those improvements,
addressing science and scientific institutions itself, but also relevant
stakeholders in politics and society. These recom mendations are present-
ed in CHAPTER 6.
I.II The Swiss Case
Switzerland offers favorable structural, political a nd sociocultural conditions for
science and research (for an overview see State Secreta riat for Education, Research
and Innovation, 2020). It offers a high degree of academic freedom, an international
scientific staff, high federal and private sector investment in science as well as a
wide range of public and philanthropic funding opportunities for researchers with
high f unding rates. For a small country, it hosts a considerable number of Higher Ed-
ucation Institutions, such as the globally renowned Swiss Institutes of Technology
Swiss Academies Repo rts, Vol. 16 , N° 8, 20 21
in Zurich (ETH Zürich) and Lausanne (EPFL), highly-ranked research universities
like t hose in Basel, Berne, Geneva, Lausanne or Zurich, as well as a range of oth-
er universities, universities of applied sciences, universities of teacher education,
and universities of the a rts (swissuniversities, 2018). In addition, the country hosts
large resea rch centers of global, national and regional importance, like the Euro-
pean Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the Swiss Federal Laboratories
for Materials Testing and Research (EMPA) or the Swiss Centre of Expertise in the
Social Sciences (FORS). These favorable conditions translate into a st rong research
output, with Switzerland leading the world in publications per capita, having a
high number of patents and being considered one of the most innovative countries
in the world (State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation, 2020, p. 20).
In Switzerland, science communication and public engagement with science are
called for due to several reasons: The country is described as a knowledge society
lacking natural resources and, thus, being dependent on a well-educated workforce.
Switzerland’s political system contains st rong elements of direct democracy, al-
lowing for regular referenda on national, cantonal and local levels, including on
science-related issues like reproductive medicine or stem cell research (Mejlgaard
et al., 2012; swissvotes, 2020). This opportunity for public referenda, it is argued,
necessitates an informed citizenry (cf. State Secretariat for Education, Research
and Innovation, 2017). In addition, scientific and higher education institutions use
communication to legitimize the public funding they receive and to position them-
selves favorably in competition with other organizations (Hafner, 2020, 120ff.).
Conditions for science communication and public engagement with science are
also advantageous compared to many other countries (Mejlgaa rd et al., 2012).
Switzerland has a varied funding landscape: The Swiss National Science Founda-
tion (SNSF) invests more than 9 million CHF annually in science communication
(SNSF, 2020a), e.g., via its Agora funding scheme, where researchers can apply for
communication and engagement projects and more than 130 projects have been
funded so far. The Swiss Innovation Agency Innosuisse has funded “Knowledge
and Technology Transfer” projects with more than 6 million CHF in 2018. The
Swiss Academies of the Arts and Sciences have funded projects and workshops
on science communication and engagement (e.g., Akademien der Wissenschaften
Schweiz, 2009; Hafner, 2020), and the Federal Offices of the national government
have funded research on their communication campaigns as well (e.g., Poggio-
lini, Wirth, & Scholz, 2018). In addition, Switzerland hosts a highly developed
ecosystem of private a nd public foundations (SwissFoundations, 2020), several of
which are involved in funding science communication and public engagement
with science. Foundations like the Gebert Rüf Foundation and the Mercator Sch-
weiz Foundation have or had f unding lines on issues like “scientainment”. Fur-
thermore, crowdfunding initiatives were successf ul in Switzerland as well. On
the platform “”, the science-focused “ScienceBooster” channel has
funded science communication projects, such as the science journalism project
“Higgs” which received more than 100.000 CHF in crowd donations.
22 Swiss Academi es Reports , Vol. 16, N° 8, 20 21
In addition, Switzerland has a strong com munication ecosystem: Public service
broadcasting is well established in all linguistic regions. Newspapers are widely
read and based on a pluralistic national, regional a nd local press (Künzler, 2013),
which is, however, in rapid decline currently (EMEK, 2020). Almost the entire pop-
ulation has access to and regularly uses the internet (Latzer, Büchi & Festic, 2019b).
I.III Broad Understanding of Science Communication and Public
Engagement with Science
In focusing on science com munication and public engagement with science in
Switzerland, the expert group employs a broad understanding of its object, inter-
preting it as all forms of communication and engagement between science and soci-
ety (Bonfadelli, Fähnrich et al., 2017; Bucchi & Trench, 2014; Schäfer, Kristiansen &
Bonfadelli, 2015). This understanding is broad in several ways:
• First, it incorporates communication and engagement about the full disciplinary
spectrum. This includes the natural sciences or “STEM” (science, technology,
engineering and mathematics) disciplines as well as the humanities, social
sciences a nd ar ts.
Second, it includes different modes of communication and engagement (for
overviews see Akin & Scheufele, 2017; Schäfer & Metag, 2021). This incorpo-
rates one-directional public communication from science, i.e., efforts by scien-
tists and scientific organizations to disseminate knowledge in order to educate
non-scientists, as conceptualized by “deficit model” or “public understanding
of science” models. It also includes two-way, dialogical exchanges between
science and non-scient ists as well as stakeholders, as conceptualized by “pub-
lic engagement with science a nd technology”, “dialogue” or “science on the
marketplace” models (Dahinden, 2004). And it includes communication about
science from, or between, non-scientific individuals and organizations, includ-
ing representatives or politics, the economy, civil society, etc., as modelled by
“science in context” or “conversation” models.
Third, it incorporates multiple forms and channels of communication and en-
gagement (for an overview see Bucchi & Trench, 2020). This includes scholars’
engagement in schools and public lectures, science education in museums and
science centers, outreach and PR activities of scientific and higher education
institutions, as well as science journalism and online or social media commu-
1 With its focus on public science communication and public engagement with science – and because other
initiatives by the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences (2019) specifically address this field already – the
report does not focus on scholarly communication, i.e. on communication within science – even though the
delineation between ‘internal’ and ‘external’ communication has become more hybrid recently due to chang-
es in the media ecosystem (Neuberger, 20 14). Scholarly communication will be taken up, however, where it is
relevant for, or touches upon, public science communication and engagement. The same is true for science
communication and public engagement activities in other countries, e.g., via external science policy, ‘science
diplomacy’ or organizations like Swissnex (for an overview see van L angenhove, 2017, 22f.).
Swiss Academies Repo rts, Vol. 16 , N° 8, 20 21
I.IV How the Report was Compiled as well as Publicly and Peer Reviewed
The status quo repor t is based on a variety of sources compiled by t he expert
group: This included a comprehensive review of the available scholarly litera-
ture analyzing science communication and public engagement with science in
Switzerland, i.e., an assessment of scholarship from communication science,
education science, political science, sociology and interdisciplinary fields like
science and technology studies. Additionally, the repor t incorporated original
data and selected secondary analyses for aspects on which little or no published
scholarly work was available. The selection and interpretation of these materials
rested on the expertise assembled in the expert group itself, systematic database
searches, as well as on additional interviews and discussions with external ex-
perts (see appendix for an overview).
After a draft version of the report was compiled, it was externally evaluated
via pre-publication public and peer review. First, when a draft version of each
individual chapter of the report was available, a preprint of the respective draft
chapter was uploaded to the “Open Science Framework” repository, and more
than 120 experts and stakeholder organizations from Switzerland a nd beyond
were invited to give feedback. During the 4-months process of this pre-publica-
tion public review, the preprint chapters were downloaded more than 270 times,
resulting in over 100 comments that were submitted to the expert group and
incorporated into the report.
Second, the report was sent out for pre-publication peer review to two Swiss and
two international scholars – all with expertise in science communication and
public engagement as well as with familiarity wit h the Swiss situation: Prof. em.
Dr. Heinz Bonfadelli (University of Zurich), Prof. Dr. Fabienne Crettaz-von Roten
(University of Lausa nne), Prof. Dr. Adria n Rauchfleisch (National University of
Taiwan) and Prof. Dr. Hannah Schmidt-Petri (University of Passau, Germany).
Their feedback was incorporated into the report as well.
I.V Plan of the Report
The resulting, consolidated report provides an overview of the status quo of sci-
ence communication and public engagement with science in Switzerland. The
report’s scope ranges from the Swiss public’s attitudes towa rds science over the
role of communicators and mediators a round science-related issues to news me-
dia and social media representations of science in Switzerland. This assessment
of the status quo of science communication and public engagement is organized
in five chapters following this introduction (Figure 1)2:
2 In all chapters, scholarship on science communication and public engagement during the COV ID-19
pandemic is woven in, where available.
24 Swiss Academies Repo rts, Vol. 16 , N° 8, 20 21
CHAPTER 1 presents the Swiss citizens’ perceptions of and attitudes towards sci-
ence, for exa mple what is k nown about public trust in science or how differ-
ent segments of the Swiss population differ in their views about science. The
chapter also surveys scholarship on the Swiss’ sources of information about
science related issues, and lays out how important news media sources are,
for example vis-à-vis social media and messengers, museums and science
centers, or interpersonal communicat ion.
CHAPTER 2 portrays the activities of individual and organizational science com-
municators, both within and beyond institutionalized science. It illuminates
to what extent individual scientists are involved in public communication
and engagement activities, and summarizes findings about the communica-
tion and engagement efforts of scientific and higher education institutions,
but also museums, science centers, etc.
CHAPTER 3 describes the situation of science journalism in Switzerland. It
assesses the role of science journalism in Swiss media houses, the working
conditions of individual science journalists and current developments that
have caused considerable changes in domestic science journalism.
CHAPTER 4 assesses the role of technological platforms as new intermediaries of
science com munication and public engagement with science. While it high-
lights their importance, it also demonstrates that little is k nown about their
role with regards to science-related issues, specifically in Switzerland.
Figure 1: Structure and Chapters of the Report
CHAPTER 1 Science-related
Perceptions & Sources of Information
among the Swiss Public
Individual &
Journalists & Science Journalism
Tech Platforms as
New Intermediaries
How Science is
Publicly Presented & Discussed
in Switzerland
for Improving Science
Communication and
Public Engagement with
Science in Switzerland
Swiss Academies Repo rts, Vol. 16 , N° 8, 20 21
CHAPTER 5 presents how science and science-related topics are portrayed pub-
licly in Switzerland, i.e., in Swiss news media, online and in social media. It
describes which fields and topics of science a re por trayed most often, in what
ways, and how accurate these port rayals are from a scientific sta ndpoint.
The order of these chapters could have been different – especially as the emer-
gence of digital media has lowered t he thresholds for feedback loops between
members of the public a nd scientists or professional communicators. The expert
group chose to sta rt with the chapter on public perceptions and attitudes to-
wards science to signal its understanding of the role of science com munication
and public engagement with science – which should serve society, improve its
capacity to understand and engage with science, learn from it, criticize it where
necessary and ultimately, make better decisions.
After present ing the status quo of science communication and public engagement
with science in Switzerland in these five chapters, CHAPTER 6 contains t he expert
group’s recommendations for action. Similar to the status quo assessment, they
focus on the role of individual scientists, on institutional science communica-
tion, on science journalism, science-policy interfaces and other aspects. They
address stakeholders and decision-makers from science and higher education
over funding organizations to politicians a nd media houses. The expert group is
convinced that realizing these recommendations would strongly benefit science
communication and public engagement with science in Switzerland.
26 Swiss Academi es Reports , Vol. 16, N° 8, 20 21
1 Science-related Perceptions of the Swiss Population and
their Sources of Information and Contact with Science
How does the Swiss population see science, what are its attitudes towards it,
and where does it come in contact with science? These questions are important
for science communication and engagement initiatives which ultimately aim at
reaching, communicating to and engaging with the broader public. Therefore,
an assessment of public perceptions of science – their interest in, knowledge
about and t rust towards science – is important. Equally important is an assess-
ment of the situations and sources t hrough which the public comes into contact
with science-related issues. The scholarly evidence on these questions that is
available for Switzerland will be presented in the following chapter.
1.1 Public Perceptions of Science in Switzerland: Knowledge, Interest,
and Trust
People’s interest in, attitudes towards, trust in, and knowledge of science have
been analyzed extensively by social scientists internationally – and partly also
for Switzerland. In doing so, scholars have often subsumed these factors as
‘public perceptions’ of science (e.g., Besley, 2013 for an overview).
A considerable body of robust quantitative data is available to assess public
perceptions of science in Switzerla nd. This is particularly true for perceptions
of science in general, which are assessed via representat ive, national population
surveys such as the Eurobarometer (2001, 2005, 2010b), the World Value Survey
2007 (Inglehart et al., 2014), the Wellcome Global Monitor 2018 (Gallup, 2019),
and the tri-annual Science Barometer Switzerla nd (2016, 2019), among others.
These surveys use nationally certified sampling standards and provide reliable,
temporally and internationally comparable insights into people’s perceptions of
science. They a re almost exclusively based on standardized questions, however,
and limited to small periods of time.
Amount of data
considerable body of data
mostly quantitative surveys
thematically mostly focused
on “science” in general or
STEM topics
little qualitative work
Quality of data
high-quality quantitative
survey data (standardised,
representative) for public
perceptions of science in
similar data on specific
research fields or issues also
Published analyses
limited amount of
scholarly analyses available
for Switzerland
some areas well-researched,
but considerable desiderata
Swiss Academies Repo rts, Vol. 16 , N° 8, 20 21
The quantity and quality of standardized data are more varied when it comes
to public perceptions of specific science-related topics. Some insights can be
derived from public votes on issues like resea rch on embryonic stem cells
(Federal Chancellery, 2003), yet official numbers are limited to regional vote
counts. In addition, several surveys are available on specific issues: The Sci-
ence Barometer Switzerland captured support of selected disciplines and the
Wellcome Global Monitor 2018 assessed attitudes towards health professionals
and vaccines, including in Switzerland. Other surveys have measured attitudes
towards bio- and gene tech nology (Bonfadelli & Meier, 2010; Eurobarometer,
2010a; NFP 59, 2013), animal experimentation (Eurobarometer, 2001, 2005),
nuclear energy (Kristiansen, Bonfadelli & Kovic, 2016), environmental issues
(gfs-zürich, 2018; ISSP Resea rch Group, 2019), 5G cellular network technology
(Frey, 2020; Schanne, 2003), innovation (Seidl, Wirth & Krütli, 2019), as well as
adolescents’ perceptions of STEM fields (Bührer et al., 2014). Continuous na-
tional surveys on issues like health and medicine and general attitudes towards
technology, among others, are missing in Switzerland, and the number of pub-
lished scholarly analyses is limited compared to the considerable amount of
data available.
The amount of qualitative studies on t he Swiss population’s perceptions of sci-
ence and science-related issues is also limited. Examples for exceptions are a
study combining smartphone-based media diaries with qualitative interviews
about peoples’ perceptions of science (Koch, Saner, Schäfer, Herrmann-Gio-
vanelli & Metag, 2019), and a number of reports by TA-SWISS on participatory
events on issues like nanotechnology, embryonic stem cells or research on hu-
mans (Burri & Bellucci, 2008; TA-SWISS, 2002, 2004).
Summary of Findings on Switzerland
The Swiss population associates “science and research” mostly with medicine
and STEM disciplines. When asked about their associations when hea ring “sci-
ence and research”, the Swiss mostly think about topics like health, medicine,
or the natural sciences more generally (Science Barometer Switzerland, 2016).
It should be noted that t his association likely underlies most of the survey find-
ings outlined in this section.
The Swiss population perceives science positively. The Science Barometer
Switzerland (2019) shows that Swiss residents have considerable interest (56%
“high” or “very high”) in science and research (and has even risen during the
COVID-19 pandemic, as shown below). This interest is higher among men
(63%) and people with tertiary education (66%). A majority of 73% of the Swiss
population “agree” or “fully agree” that scientific resea rch should be publicly
funded and suppor t basic resea rch without any immediate applications. Peo-
ple with tertiary education hold these two views even more strongly (approx.
80%). These findings mirror those of the Science Barometer (2016). The 2016
28 Swiss Academi es Reports , Vol. 16, N° 8, 20 21
survey also asked about people’s motives for concerning themselves with sci-
ence, showing they mostly do so out of curiosity (69% “agree” or “fully agree”),
to increase t heir understanding of science (58%), and to obtain knowledge for
school or work (57%). These trends are corroborated by Eurobarometer data,
which show that only about 10% of the Swiss population are “not at all” (vs.
“moderately” or “very”) interested in “new scientific discoveries” and “new
inventions and technologies” (Eurobarometer, 2005), and that 16% were “not
at all” interested in new scientific discoveries and technological developments
in 2010 (Euroba rometer, 2010b). This high level of interest is mirrored by 50%
“fully agreeing” that they always participate in public votes if the issue is re-
lated to science and research (Science Barometer Switzerland, 2016). For the
questions where international comparisons are available, they indicate t hat the
Swiss population’s perceptions of science are on par or slightly more positive
compared to other European countries (Eurobarometer, 2010b; Wissenschaf t im
Dialog, 2019).
Most Swiss residents are knowledgeable about science and well equipped to un-
derstand science-related content. The population in Switzerland is highly edu-
cated in general. About 44% of the population have tertiary degrees, a number
that rises to 54% among people aged 25 to 34 (Federal Statistical Office, 2019g).
Switzerland ranks 10th in the world according to the United Nations Education
Index 2018 and second regarding average years of schooling (13.4 years, United
Nations Development Programme, 2018).
In addition, general knowledge about science has been measured as well. In
international studies, this was done in different ways, several of which are
also available for Switzerland: First, scholars have embedded quiz questions
(i.e., true/false statements) about scientific facts in surveys, like “electrons are
smaller than atoms – true or false?”, aiming to assess “scientific literacy”. The
Science Barometer Switzerland (2016) used such a measure, indicating that the
Swiss population, on average, answered 7.6 out of 11 quiz questions correct-
ly. People with tertiary education (8.1 correct a nswers) perform significantly
better than the rest of the population. The Eurobarometer (2005), using a sim-
ilar quiz in several count ries, ranked Switzerland clearly above the European
average (71% correct answers compared to 66%) and 8th among 32 Europea n
Surveys have also invest igated t he Swiss’ understanding of scientific princi-
ples. For example, a question asking whether “scientific theories never change”
was identified as incorrect by 86% of respondents in 2019 (Science Barometer
Switzerland, 2019). Additionally, surveys can focus on specific topics, like an
online survey of the German-speak ing Swiss population in 2018 that measured
respondents’ knowledge about chemist ry and toxicological principles (using
statements such as “both synthetic and natural chemical substances can cause
cancer in humans”) and showed that people answered 4 out of 8 questions cor-
Swiss Academies Repo rts, Vol. 16 , N° 8, 20 21
rectly on average (Saleh, Bear th & Siegrist, 2019). Measures such as statistical
literacy and scientific reasoning (e.g., Drummond & Fischhoff, 2017) have not
yet been employed in Switzerland.
Furthermore, studies have asked respondents to self-assess their knowledge of
science. The Swiss population’s self-assessment is modest in this respect: 66%
of the Swiss population report to know some (55%) or a lot (11%) about science,
which is average compared to other countries in Western (54% and 15%) and
Northern Europe (53% and 14%) (Gallup, 2019).
Another assessment of knowledge about science are standardized education
tests. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) regularly
tests 15-year-old students’ competences in reading, mathematics and natural
sciences across countries. Its findings show that Swiss students display reading
competences similar to the OECD average, but perform significantly better in
mathematics and natural sciences (Konsor tium, 2019).
Trust in science and scientists in Switzerland is high and seems stable over time.
The Swiss display high trust in “science in general” (56% “high” or “very high”),
and they also trust scientists: 64% of the population have “high” or “very high”
trust in university scientists, and about 70% of the population “agree” or “fully
agree” that scientists are competent and qualified. Men, people aged 15 to 34
years, and people with tertia ry education have particularly high t rust in these
dimensions (Science Ba rometer Switzerland, 2019). Trust in science remained
strong, and even increased, during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 80% of the
Swiss population indicating t hat they “tend to trust” or “fully trust” science
as the first Swiss lockdown ca me to an end at the end of April 2020 (gfs.bern,
2020), and with trust remaining above pre-pandemic levels in November 2020
(Science Barometer Switzerland, 2020). These results are also in line with Gal-
lup’s (2019) findings from 2018 showing that 91% of Swiss people trust scien-
tists “some” (48%) or “a lot” (43%), which is markedly higher than t he Swiss
population’s trust in journalists (67% “some” or “a lot”) or the national govern-
ment (81% “some” or “a lot”), and only surpassed by their trust in doctors and
nurses (95% “some” or “a lot”). Trust in scientists is generally high across the
world (Funk, Tyson, Kennedy & Johnson, 2020). Still, the Swiss population’s
trust in scientists is above average compared to 143 countries included in the
Gallup survey. Switzerland ranks 18th among 40 Eu ropean countries (FIGURE 2),
and 37th among 144 countries worldwide (Gallup, 2019).
30 Swiss Academi es Reports , Vol. 16, N° 8, 20 21
The Swiss population expects scientists to communicate to the public. The
Swiss population’s trust in science, in scientists and in their qualifications is
accompanied by demands for science communication: 79% of the Swiss pop-
ulation “agree” or “fully agree” that scientists should inform the public about
their work (Science Barometer Switzerland, 2019), an opinion that was less com-
mon (73%) in 2016 (Science Barometer Switzerland, 2016). 49% “agree” or “fully
agree” that scientists should listen more to what common people think (Science
Barometer Switzerland, 2019). Older insights from 2005 show that 50% were u n-
satisfied with scientists’ communication, agreeing that “scientists put too little
effort into informing t he public about their work” (Eurobarometer, 2005).
These perceptions of science, however, need to be qualified in two ways: First,
while general attitudes for science are favorable overall, perceptions var y be-
tween different scientific topics – even though the respective data have many
gaps and are hard to compare comprehensively. While the majority of the Swiss
population does not doubt t hat vaccines are effective, for exa mple, 22% “some-
what disagree” or “strongly disagree” that vaccines are safe, ma king it the 5th
most skeptical country across 144 countries included in the recent Gallup study
(Gallup, 2019). Another example is that the Swiss population mostly opposes
nuclear energy, as measured in 2013, 2014, and 2015, and slightly disagrees
Figure 2: Index of five variables measuring trust in scientists in 40 European countries,
showing the average level of trust indicated by survey respondents between 1 =“low” and
4 = “high”. Switzerland ranks 18th, above average, among the surveyed countries (Gallup, 2019)
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Czech Republic
United Kingdom
mean = 3.03
4: high
1: low
Trust in Scientists Index
Swiss Academies Repo rts, Vol. 16 , N° 8, 20 21
that the benefits of nuclear energy outweigh its risks (Kristiansen, Bonfadelli
& Kovic, 2016). This variety of attitudes ca n also be obser ved within individu-
als; people supporting the scientific consensus on climate change, for example,
might disagree with findings on the safety of genetically modified organisms.
Second, perceptions of science also differ between subgroups of the population.
For example, 55-60% of people in French-speaking cantons voted for the “Nu-
clear Withdrawal Initiative”, while 54.2% of the Swiss population voted against
it (Federal Chancellery, 2016). Studies based on the Science Ba rometer Switzer-
land 2016 identified four subgroups (FIGURE 3) within t he Swiss population with
distinctly different attitudes towa rds science (Koch et al., 2019; Schäfer, Füchs-
lin, Metag, Kristiansen & Rauchfleisch, 2018).
The “Sciencephiles” make up about 28% of the Swiss population. People in this
group have high interest in, high knowledge about and very positive percep-
tions towards science. They feel that science plays an important role in t heir
lives and are highly supportive of public funding towards it. They are opti-
mistic when it comes to science’s potential and the advances it can achieve.
The “Critically Interested” (17%) match the “Sciencephiles” in their knowledge of,
positive attitudes towards and support of science funding. The main differ-
ence is that they trust science less, clearly favor research constraints in some
fields and think that humanity relies too heavily on science.
The “Passive Supporters” (42%) are t he largest group. Their interest, attitudes,
and trust regarding science are moderate. Overall, they share some hopes
when it comes to scientific achievements and harbor some reservations
regarding ethical considerations such as having clear limits on what science
should be allowed to investigate. For example, they think science improves
human life, but also that scientific research should have clear constraints.
The “Disengaged” (13%) – the smallest segment – have more negative percep-
tions of science, albeit being not wholly negative. They are a mbivalent about
public funding for science, do not think it is important in their lives, do not
trust science strongly, and are not interested in it. Like the “Critically Inter-
ested” they think that society relies too heavily on science and t hat research
constraints are necessary.
Figure 3: The four audiences of science communication in Switzerland: Swiss population
segments based on 20 different attitudes towards science and research (Schäfer et al., 2018).
32 Swiss Academi es Reports , Vol. 16, N° 8, 20 21
Science-related perceptions and sources of information have changed – and are still changing –
during the pandemic caused by novel coronavirus (COVID-19). A large amount of data has been
collected to analyze this extraordinary situation internationally, and a considerable number of
research projects have also been initiated in Switzerland (see the SNSF (2020c) COVID-19 re-
search project registry for an overview). With regards to the Swiss population’s science-related
perceptions and sources of information, these projects indicate a number of relevant findings
and developments. It has to be noted, however, that these findings are often based on first,
sometimes not peer-reviewed studies, and that they describe phenomena which are dynamic
and may still change.
Public trust in science has increased considerably during the COVID-19 pandemic. A survey
during the March 2020 lockdown showed the Swiss population’s very high trust in the health-
care sector, in the Federal Office of Public Health and in national public broadcasters (around
4.0 to 4.2 on a 5-point scale), whereas trust in commercial radio, tv and print news sources was
significantly lower, albeit still positive (around 3.3) (Friemel et al., 2020). A study at the end of the
first lockdown showed that 80% of the Swiss population indicated that they “tend to trust” or
“fully trust” science (gfs.bern, 2020) – a number considerably higher than approx. 55% reported
by the Science Barometer Switzerland in 2016 and 2019 (Science Barometer Switzerland, 2016,
2019). In November 2020, the “COVID-19 Edition” of the Science Barometer Switzerland reiterat-
ed the finding that trust in science was higher than prior to the pandemic, albeit the increase
was not as pronounced anymore, with 67% of respondents indicating to “trust” or “fully trust”
science (Science Barometer Switzerland, 2020). Surveys in other countries showed that half of
the UK’s population reported an increasing trust in science during the pandemic (King’s College
London, 2020), or that the French population trusted doctors and scientists the most during
the pandemic (Bono, 2020). The Science Barometer Germany showed that trust in science in-
creased as well, from 46% in 2019 to 73% in April and 66% in May 2020 during the first German
COVID-19 lockdown (Wissenschaft im Dialog, 2020).
The Swiss population expects scholars to engage in public communication and to involve
themselves in political debates about the pandemic. In November 2020, the COVID-19 edition
of the Science Barometer Switzerland showed that 63% of the population expected scientists
to involve themselves in political debates about the pandemic, and 74% indicated that political
decisions should rest on scientific evidence (Science Barometer Switzerland, 2020).
People’s media and information use, and their attention to science-related and COVID-19-relat-
ed news, changed and are still changing. Media use in German-speaking Switzerland increased
across almost all sources during the lockdown in March and April 2020 (Kaspar, 2020). In No-
vember 2020, national levels of COVID-19-related media use were still heightened (Science
Barometer Switzerland, 2020). Insights from Germany indicate that such increased media use
is largely related to an increased news media consumption (Peter & Brosius, 2020). A weekly
COVID-19 survey in Germany showed that around 72% were regularly informing themselves
about COVID-19 around the time when the national Robert-Koch Institute updated the COVID-19
risk to “high”. This attentiveness remained high during subsequent weeks and started to slowly
Swiss Academies Repo rts, Vol. 16 , N° 8, 20 21
decrease in May 2020 (Betsch, 2020). Similar spikes in news attentiveness where observed
when other countries went into lockdown (Kleis Nielsen, Fletcher, Newman, Brennen, & Howard,
2020), as were subsequent reductions of public interest and an increasing “issue-fatigue” (Ka-
logeropoulos, Fletcher & Kleis Nielsen, 2020).
Traditional media like television and radio have become increasingly important during the COV-
ID-19 pandemic. A representative survey during the first days of the lockdown in March showed
that the population considered national public television (4.3), national public radio (3.7) and
online newspapers (3.6) as the most relevant media sources (Friemel et al., 2020). While it
has been shown that the Swiss population’s social media use intensified during the lockdown
(Hargittai et al., 2020), social media platforms were seen as the least relevant sources, even
among younger people aged 16-29 (Friemel et al., 2020; Science Barometer Switzerland, 2020).
In Germany and Sweden, national-public television was also the leading source of information
for most people (Betsch, 2020; Vetenskap & Allmänhet, 2020). In Argentina, Spain, South Korea
and the UK, television was the second most important news source behind online and social
media (Kleis Nielsen et al., 2020).
News media reporting during the COVID-19 pandemic has been perceived more critical over
time. During the first days of the Swiss lockdown in March, a majority of people (approx. 56%)
thought that there was too much media content on COVID-19, while 45% thought that the tonal-
ity of the content was overly dramatic (Friemel et al., 2020). A larger survey showed that 22%
felt that the media coverage was exaggerating at the beginning of the lockdown, a number that
increased to 30% three weeks into the lockdown (SRG SSR, 2020) and has risen further since
(sotomo, 2021). This is contextualized by around 50% of respondents indicating that they feel
comprehensively informed by the media (SRG SSR, 2020). Weekly data from Germany showed
that about two thirds of Germans perceived media coverage on COVID-19 as out of proportion
in early March, before the Robert-Koch Institute updated the COVID-19 risk to “high”. Afterwards,
about 47% held this sentiment throughout the pandemic (Betsch, 2020). Similar sentiments
regarding allegedly alarmist media coverage were found in Sweden, where 67% found news
media coverage to be alarmist at the end of March (Vetenskap & Allmänhet, 2020). It is notable
that these studies did not ask about specific media types or titles, even they respondents likely
thought of news content.
1.2 Contact with Science in Everyday Life, Museums, Events and
Participatory Formats
The public can encounter science and science-related issues in many places (Buc-
chi & Trench, 2021). Many scholars have assessed how frequent and importa nt
peoples’ encounters with science are: in conversations with friends and family, in
museums, zoos or science centers, at science-related events such as open days and
science slams, by pa rticipating in consensus conferences or in popular culture,
online and news media.
34 Swiss Academies Repo rts, Vol. 16 , N° 8, 20 21
Amount of data
data available for facets of the
Swiss population’s contact
with science in everyday life
mostly quantitative surveys
focused on contact with
“science” in general
little qualitative work
Quality of data
high quality quantitative
survey data for everyday
life contact with science, but
limited to respondents’
similar data for specific
issues lacking
Published analyses
few published scholarly
analyses available for
reports capture amount
of contacts only (and not
considerable desiderata
Comprehensive data on the Swiss public’s engagement with science is available,
albeit for a narrow spectrum of activities. The Science Barometer Switzerland
surveys ask people how often t hey come into contact with science t hrough a num-
ber of everyday life situations, such as going to museums, attending science-relat-
ed events, or talking about science with f riends (Science Barometer Switzerland,
2016, 2019). Population surveys also measure attitudes towards forms of engage-
ment with science (Eurobarometer, 2010b; Science Barometer Switzerland, 2016,
2019), e.g., whether respondents think that science is important in their personal
lives, or whether public opinion should influence decisions about science or the
research agenda. Several surveys also ascertain reported behavior such as donat-
ing for research projects, attending public meetings or signing petitions (Euroba-
rometer, 2005, 2010b) as well as voting on science-related issues and the intention
to participate in citizen science projects (Science Ba rometer Switzerland, 2016,
2019). Data on actual science-related behavior is scarce. It exists, for example, for
visitor numbers of Swiss (science) museums (Federal Statistical Office, 2019d) or
participants in science cafés (Science et Cité, 2016). In addition, the amount of
qualitative studies on contact with science in everyday life in Switzerland is lim-
ited (for an exception see Koch et al., 2019).
Summary of Findings on Switzerland
The Swiss population states that it regularly encounters science in their every-
day life. The Science Barometer Switzerland (2019) asks respondents how often
they “come into contact with science and research”, asking respondents to assess
various activities between 1 = “never” to 5 “very often” (FIGURE 4). It shows that the
Swiss encounter science most often through conversations with friends and ac-
quaintances (mean frequency of 3.1), films or TV series (2.9), zoos and botanical
gardens (2.6), and museums and exhibitions (2.5). It also suggests that everyday
conversations are the most common encounter with science for t he Swiss on aver-
age (more common, as shown later, than news media and online sources) (Science
Barometer Switzerland, 2016, 2019).
Swiss Academies Repo rts, Vol. 16 , N° 8, 20 21
Museums and botanical ga rdens are important for public interactions with sci-
ence. While encounters with science through conversations, films, and tv series
may be more f requent, the importance of museums, zoos and botanical gardens
is also well-tracked a nd established. The Federal Statistical Office (2019c) reports
about 3.5 million visits in a rchaeological, historical and ethnographic museums,
1.9 million in technical museums, and 1.7 million in science museums in 2018
(including foreign visitors).
Engaging with science-related issues in political contexts is more important in
Switzerland than in most other countries. About 10% of the European popula-
tion engage with scientific issues in political context, i.e., by attending public
meetings, signing petitions or protesting, by participating in the activities of a
non-governmental orga nization, etc. (Eurobarometer, 2005, 2010b). An analysis of
these data across 32 count ries shows that Switzerland has the highest proportion
of people who engaged at least once in such an activity, likely due to Switzer-
land’s strong direct democracy and high support for democratic control of science
(Makarovs & Achterberg, 2018; see also Mejlgaard et al., 2012). This is in line with
73% of the Swiss population “agreeing” or “fully agreeing” that they always par-
ticipate in public votes that a re science related (Science Barometer Switzerland,
Figure 4: How frequently does the Swiss population encounter science and research across media
(legacy and online) and everyday life sources? Results from Science Barometer Switzerland (2019).
Talking Science via
Messengers (e.g. WhatsApp)
Science Events,Talks,
& Discussions
Science Museums
Zoos & Botanical Gardens
TV Films and Shows
also featuring Science
Talking Science
with Acquaintances
Blogs or Message Boards
Social Network Sites
(e.g. Facebook, Twitter)
Online TV & Radio
Institutional Websites
Online Newspapers &
Magazines (incl. via App)
Science Magazines
TV (without online archive)
Daily/Weekly Newspapers
& Magazines
Internet (total)
5: very often
1: never
Contact Type Everyday L ife Online Media Legacy Media
2.5 2.6
2.9 3.1
2.7 2.8 3 3
2.8 3
36 Swiss Academi es Reports , Vol. 16, N° 8, 20 21
Citizen science seems to have considerable potential in Switzerland. Citizen
science, “where people produce scientific knowledge outside of traditional sci-
entific institutions” (Strasser & Hak lay, 2018, p. 22), interests more t han a third
of the Swiss, who indicate they would like to participate in scientific resea rch
(Science Barometer Switzerland, 2016, 2019). People with such interest can be
divided into five groups: “Free-Timers” (approx. 11% of the population), who are
around 55 years old, mostly female, and not employed full-time; “Fully-Employed
Parents” (6%), who work full time and often have children at home; “Intrigued
Adolescents” (7%), who are 18 years on average and have favorable although not
enthusiastic attitudes towa rds science; “Senior Sciencephiles” (8%), who think
very positively about science, are highly educated, mostly male, and around 55
years old; and “Young Sciencephiles” (4%), who are 26 years old on average and
have a better gender ba