Communicating climate change in digital spaces: How sceptical views of science and knowledge overconfidence challenge science communication on social media

Public and scholarly debate about the role of social media in science communication is rife with concerns that social networking sites and instant messengers harbour critical views toward science and cause users to think that they know more about science than they actually do. Niels G. Mede has studied these concerns for different scientific issues, including climate change. In his talk, he will first give an overview of this research and then present results from two recent studies. These investigated whether science scepticism and knowledge overconfidence predict how people inform themselves and communicate about issues like climate change on social media. He will also present evidence on whether a link between critical views of science, overconfidence, and social media behaviour can be found for other scientific topics (i.e. COVID-19). He will conclude his talk by discussing implications for online science communication against the backdrop of an upcoming global survey on public attitudes to (climate) science and digital media use.

Dr Niels G. Mede is a communication researcher and works as a Senior Research and Teaching Associate at the Department of Communication and Media Research (IKMZ), University of Zurich. His research centres on science communication, digital media, climate change communication, and survey methodology. Further research interests that he pursued during his PhD and continues to explore are populism, disinformation, polarisation, and their implications for science communication.

From May to August 2023, Niels is a Visiting Research Fellow at the OII. He collaborates with Prof Ralph Schroeder and his team on two main programmes of research that focus on climate change communication, social media, and right-wing populism. In 2022, Niels completed a PhD programme in Media and Communication Studies at the University of Zurich. Prior to that, he earned an MA in Communication Studies at the University of Münster (Germany) and a BA in Media Management at the Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media (Germany). Throughout the past years, he worked as a freelancer in market research, media development research, and academic research in Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland, was a visiting student at Örebro Universitet (Sweden), and joined the Department of Life Sciences Communication of the University of Wisconsin—Madison (United States) as a visiting scholar.

Niels is passionate about public outreach and dialogue between science and society: He has given several interviews to radio stations and digital media outlets, frequently discussed his research on social media such as Twitter and Mastodon, participated in science fairs, lectured at public schools, and guest-authored articles in print and online media. His research has also been featured in leading news media, including Times Higher Education and Le Monde. Moreover, Niels seeks to facilitate an Open Science culture within and beyond media and communication research, for example as a member of the ORCID Researcher Advisory Council and as a Fellow of the Center for Reproducible Science (CRS) at the University of Zurich.