Rhine Ruhr Center for Science Communication ResearchPracticing Judgement in Times of a Crisis of Truth

“Alternative facts”, conspiracy theories or science denial – they are all symptoms of a crisis of truth marked by more complex forms of relativism, a loss of trust and science scepticism. This also poses new challenges for science communication: It must communicate not only the results of disciplinary research, but also knowledge about the science system itself and the diversity and limits of reliable scientific findings. Funded by the VolkswagenStiftung for an initial period of five years, the Rhine Ruhr Center for Science Communication Research (RRC) therefore aims to reorganise both the content of science communication and the structures of science communication research in order to enable the public to engage more actively with science and thus improve their factual judgement.

As a joint project of TU Dortmund University, the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities Essen (KWI), the University of Bonn and Bonn-Rhine-Sieg University of Applied Sciences, the RRC is able to draw on connections to journalistic networks and institutions throughout the Rhine-Ruhr area. Benefitting from the dense research and media landscapes in North Rhine-Westphalia, the RRC, together with its cooperation partners at the Science Media Center Germany (SMC) and the German Science Journalists’ Association (WPK), can thus develop and implement communication and research infrastructures which will have a sustainable impact nationally and internationally.

At the heart of the RRC three main research projects engage with exemplary target groups in order to develop hermeneutic procedures, quality standards and communication formats in different collaborations fusing theory and practice. To do so, the RRC pursues a double strategy: While the interdisciplinary field of Science Studies provides meta- and orientation knowledge for the assessment of scientific practices across all disciplines, a parallel approach focuses on the Social Sciences and Humanities, which have so far been neglected by science communication research. By making the Social Sciences and Humanities a subject of science communication, the RRC aims to analyse to what extent these disciplines can contribute to a more comprehensive and precise contextualisation of scientific facts and findings.