Even a country as unsympathetic to scientific research and as alien to the scientific method as Italy has recently witnessed a growing dissemination of scientific research in the media, whether traditional or otherwise.
Newspapers, websites, and TV broadcasts report research outcomes from the natural and medical sciences more and more frequently. This is done with various degrees of clarity and rigour, though more often than not without a description of the methods through which the results have been achieved. In fact, these are usually presented as cumulative pieces of expert knowledge.
As far as the social and political sciences are concerned, this is much less the case. Here, the prevailing idea is that research results are too biased by the values, interests, and political beliefs of researchers in order to be treated in the same way as those from “the hard sciences”.
Moreover, it is hard to kill the conviction that social and political research has little to offer to an educated audience beyond what is already offered by everyday interaction with other people, information about current affairs, or even movies, theatrical plays, novels, or historical accounts. In short, social and political research is often equated with kinds of knowledge that are vital to us but nonetheless unscientific.
The public engagement of scholars as more or less partisan policy advisors does not help in this respect – though this is a perfectly natural and in some respects desirable output of research. The urge to provide policy recommendations may obliterate the expertise behind them. Solutions are remembered, but not the reasons why they were deemed plausible.
Taken together, these prejudices, beliefs, and misunderstandings hide from the general public the fact that becoming a scholar in the social and political sciences, just like in the natural sciences, requires a long training. The hypotheses that guide scholars in their investigation must find some support, at least temporarily, in empirical evidence, and stand up to review on the part of a community of researchers with different backgrounds, political preferences, values, and origins. In short, social and political knowledge is hard to achieve. Its dissemination is therefore vital in order for it to become a common resource for public discussion and deliberation.
The main goal of Naspread is to bridge the gap between social/political research and lay readers, who nonetheless value the questions that drive this strand of scientific research and are keen to learn from it. For this reason, Naspread also relies on those who work in media communication, who may cite its contents.
Naspread also allows fellow social and political scientists to learn of research results from their own area of expertise in a condensed form, and find references to the source publications.
A single tool serving the purposes of scientific communication and dissemination. For this reason, the website is bilingual (Italian and English).
Naspread is the brainchild of Nasp, the most important social and political science network in Northern Italy. Nasp offers at least three PhD programmes in the social and political sciences, and works in partnership with the Walter Tobagi School of Journalism at the University of Milan.
The main sources for the contents posted here are the outputs of research conducted by scholars from the Nasp network, i.e. from six different universities and one higher-education institute. This means virtually two hundred scholars and in-training researchers. In addition, the network also includes the scholars regularly visiting the Nasp-affiliated universities.