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Scientists need to be more proactive, effective at public communication
Date:5/21/2010

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A comprehensive approach to communication used in the successful establishment of marine reserves in the Channel Islands and along the California coast offers insights useful elsewhere. Among the steps that were used:

  • Scientists worked to "know the audience," identifying the various group needs, levels of expertise and background, and using that to tailor communication efforts.

  • A few "main messages" were identified, such as identifying the problem, why it should matter to the audience, what actions are needed, and what benefits would derive from those actions.

  • A diverse range of communication approaches were used, ranging from printed materials to web sites and small group presentations.

  • Efforts were made to identify and track the success of the communication strategy, based either on accomplishing a specific goal or measuring the increase in understanding among target audiences.

In this example, an educational booklet and film titled "The Science of Marine Reserves" was developed, with input from both marine ecologists and science communication specialists. More than 10,000 of an updated version of the booklet have been distributed to 57 countries. And since its launch in 2008, 600,000 visitors from 220 countries have visited the content on a web site titled "Protect Planet Ocean."

Not every science communication effort may be this ambitious, Grorud-Colvert said, but as funding for science becomes more competitive, there's an increasing demand to make it more relevant to public issues and meet funding agency requirements for outreach strategies to communicate the findings.

"Being willing to participate in the public forum and investing time is a big part of this," she said. "A lot of scientists just aren't used to that. But these are important issues and we all need to do a better job of communicating about them with honesty and credibility. We need to help peopl
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Contact: Kirsten Grorud-Colvert
grorudck@science.oregonstate.edu
541-737-9981
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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