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Informing vs Persuading in Scholarly Communication

20/07/2023 @ 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Registration for this event is open

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Journalists receive formal training in the distinction between communication intended to inform vs persuade, but academics typically do not. This workshop will explore the distinction between these two forms of communication, why it matters, their place in scholarly communication in particular, and what different schools of academia can contribute to understanding this distinction.

In practice, of course, there will be elements of both informing and persuading in any actual piece of communication. But what elements of persuasion can be controversial? Maybe selective use of data, selective summaries of the balance of existing evidence, moving from a finding to a ‘call to action’, the elision from association to causation, use of narrative as a persuasive device, and / or minimising uncertainty.

Many of these elements are already considered “questionable research practices”. But what underlies them is a desire to persuade, either of the importance of a finding, or of its truth and implications. Can that desire be corrupting? And how do current incentive structures (e.g., a pressure to describe our research as original, rigorous and significant or novel) in academia contribute to the elision between informing and persuading?

We will explore the case, normative or practical, for beginning to concern ourselves with this distinction. We will also explore the difference between the two. What constitutes persuasive communication in an academic context and how does it compare to informative communication? Under what conditions, and in what forms, can a particular piece of communication seek to both inform and persuade, without undermining research integrity?


  • Alexandra Freeman, Executive Director, Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, University of Cambridge
  • Michael Blastland, Writer and Broadcaster, Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, University of Cambridge
  • Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, Dean of Research Environment and Culture, Cardiff University
  • Bambo Soyinka, Professor of Story and Chair of the Research Centre for Transcultural Creativity and Education (TRACE), Bath Spa University
  • Nicky Dean, Chief Editor of Nature Energy

Programme (GMT+1)

13:00 Welcome and introduction – Alexandra Freeman

13:10 The case for distinguishing between informing and persuading – Michael Blastland

13:25 Informing and persuading in journalistic genres – Karin Wahl-Jorgensen

13:40 Break (10 min)

13:50 What can we learn from narrative about the distinction between informing and persuading? – Bambo Soyinka

14:05 A perspective on informing and persuading from journal publishing – Nicky Dean

14:20 Break (10 min)

14:30 Panel discussion

15:00 End



1:00 pm - 3:00 pm