Reflections on writing narratives in communicating science – Part 2

A blog posted on 18/06/2020 by Michel S. Bourqui
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If you haven’t read part 1 of this blog yet, click here…


Narrative structure and interactivity

The storylines that Juliette and her team present were produced using the ESRI Story Maps tool[1]. This online tool allows authors to display storylines that mix text with visuals with various levels of interactivity. An important take home message from this study is that the interactive elements are attractive but need a conscious design. Higher level of interactivity may divert readers from the story and information might stay hidden or unused. To avoid this from happening, they suggest that the narrative must closely guide the reader through the various elements of interactivity.

Humans have been shaped through their history to enjoy stories that follow a clear narrative thread. Good books, fairy tales, ancient legends, aboriginal dreamtime stories, ballads, all follow a story line. Now, a new possibility opens up thanks to digital technology, where the reader can interact with the narrative. Any level of interactivity will require the reader to take decisions. This has the potential to move the reader away from a passive mode of reading and bring her/him into an active mode of exploring.

Being fully digital and community-led, Climanosco can offer a perfect setting for exploring digital interactivity and we should definitely start gathering ideas in this direction. I believe that the idea discussed above of maintaining a tacit handshake with the reader will be important here as we should make sure to inform the reader upfront about the level of interactivity to expect for a satisfying exploration of the content. For instance, where the experience we’re offering is that of a story, i.e. a sort of guided tour on some topic, and not a free exploration, the reader’s decisions must be guided and a clear story thread has to come out of the experience.

Experimenting with communities of stakeholders

Another key take home message from this study is that the relevance of a narrative for specific stakeholders will benefit from being developed in collaboration with these stakeholders. This confirms the fundamental idea behind Climanosco’s extended peer review process whereby research articles move through two cycles of feedback and revision between our community and the authors – first at the preliminary discussion and then during the open review.

Climanosco’s community is very diverse and international, and includes members with a background in climate sciences as well as members with a background in other areas. Having people with different levels of knowledge on climate science shape and improve our content helps make it more accessible for our main target audience – namely those outside the realm of science and academia who would like to learn more about climate research.

While our main goal is to open the world of climate research to a broader audience, we can also go a step further and make our platform available in the future to scientific teams to conduct research experiments on the communication of climate science in interaction with specific communities of stakeholders.

On a more immediate level, scientists preparing their manuscripts for Climanosco’s broad audience are welcome to take more advantage of this unique possibility of interacting with a real community of citizens by taking bolder steps away from traditional research structure and prose and by embracing more elements of storytelling in their narrative. They could envision the submission of the manuscript like an experiment on how to best communicate science with a broad community.


On a final note, I would like to emphasize that each author, each reviewer, each commenter is unique, and that most important is to have this uniqueness freely reflected in each contribution. The availability of participants to work together with mutual respect of everyone’s uniqueness is what makes Climanosco’s publications so amazing. Our growing collection of these research articles already shows a wonderful diversity and value, and this is just the beginning.


This blog was written with contribution of Juliette Cortes.
Post-doc researcher at the Delft University of Technology and guest researcher at the University of Twente, The Netherlands.
See Juliette Cortes’ LinkedIn profile


Over the coming future, we will be working on exploring and experimenting with new forms of communication of climate science and this blog with all your feedbacks is the start.

Please share your thoughts in the discussion area below!

  1. Cortes Juliette, Verbrugge Laura, Sools Anneke, Brugnach Marcela, Wolterink Rik, van Denderen Pepijn, Candel Jasper, Hulscher Suzanne (2020). Storylines for practice: a visual storytelling approach to strengthen the science-practice interface. Sustainability Science.