Communicators and outreach personnel at LTER sites come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some are trained as scientists and gravitated to outreach and communications as they saw the need. Others have worked as educators, reporters, or communications professionals before coming to the LTER Network. By learning from each other’s strengths, we build the Network’s capacity to reach the broader scientific community, resource managers, decision-makers, and educators.
Why Science Communication?
The vast majority of scientific research is publicly funded, which entails a responsibility to convey the results to diverse audiences in an accessible way. Beyond that simple obligation, there are many good reasons to emphasize effective science communication. When science is communicated well, it can be incorporated into policy and management decisions more quickly and effectively. When specialists express their work and ideas clearly, cross-disciplinary research moves more rapidly. And learning the tools of science communication can offer common ground for students and more experienced researchers to find a commons sense of belonging. See recent research by Beth Bartel, a communications and outreach specialist at UNAVCO, to learn more about how to put this last benefit into action.
The National Science Foundation has explicit requirements for the use of NSF logo and accompanying text to acknowledge the source of funding for all facilities, equipment, vehicles, and programs. Learn about the new requirements on the NSF website.
- So you have an exciting result? Now what? Depending on the skills and resources at your site and within your institution, there are a number of ways a site communicator might handle a news-worthy result. General guidelines are listed here, but if you’re in doubt, don’t hesitate to reach out to the LNO for advice.
- If your result is scientifically interesting and based on site-specific data, your first stop will be the media relations office of the university or agency with which the lead author is affiliated. The media relations professionals there can help you figure out how much and what kind of outreach makes sense. They can also advise you about timing and coordination with other investigators and institutions, including NSF. If you end up doing a press release or social media campaign, please inform the LNO well in advance, so we can help amplify the message.
- If your result relates to the Network as a whole, the National Science Foundation Office of Legislative and Public Affairs and the Network Office will coordinate on media relations. Examples of such outputs include LTER Network publications, synthesis results, and Network-wide education or diversity initiatives.
- Long-term research can play a major role in improving land-, water-, and resource-management decisions. But doing media outreach on results with policy implications poses some special considerations. If you expect to release an article, report or other output that falls into this category, please contact the LNO as soon as possible to discuss possible approaches to it. The Science Policy Exchange can also be a useful resource for these types of projects.
- The Network uses the USLTER Facebook account primarily to share information and activities that may resonate most strongly with students, educators and public audiences. Consider following the USLTER Facebook account to receive (and share) regular updates. Education-Outreach managers also maintain a private Facebook group for education-specific content.
- The @USLTER Twitter account is more oriented toward LTER science, data-sharing, and science communications. We track a list of LTER sites that tweet, as well as a variety of key science bloggers, journalists and twitter-savvy scientists.
- We’ve also developed a brief Twitter for Scientists primer on how to use twitter as a professional development and networking tool.
- The US LTER YouTube account is a place to find inspiration, share your site’s videos, or maintain an online home for LTER video content. PLease let us know when you have new video content available, so we can amplify it.
- Video abstracts are an exciting new trend in scientific publishing. They can be as simple to produce as recording a Skype conversation with your students. Or they can be fully scripted and incorporate photos, animations and field video.
- The LNO has put together an overview and tip sheet for video production, with special reference to video abstracts and also led a hands-on workshop at the 2017 Ecological Society of America Meeting.
Web Site Development
- Even on the Network website, over 60% of site visitors find our content via search. Make your content more findable by learning how to optimize for search. Best practices in search engine optimization change frequently, but one good, accessible recent post is this one writing to optimize SEO.
- The Science Communication Section of the Ecological Society of America has a useful resource guide for ecologists who are interested in building their science communication skills.
- The American Geophysical Union has published Kudos, a toolkit for authors to help them explain, share, and measure their article for maximum impact.
- The American Association for Advancement of Science maintains a set of resources for effectively communicating your science.