The goal of this project is to understand and support the development of evidence-based public engagement with science (PES) strategies within STEM research organizations. It specifically seeks to understand how scientists, institutional leaders, and staff within the NSF’s Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network make decisions about the design and implementation of PES activities. The LTER Network includes 28 varied sites across North America and provides a unique opportunity to study PES decision-making within scientific organizations. The project is especially interested in the degree to which these types of organizations consider the interests and assets of local communities, including underrepresented communities. This project will lead to increased capacity for effective, evidence-based PES in an essential sector of the nation’s STEM research infrastructure. The project is a collaboration between PES practitioners within the LTER Network and PES researchers at Michigan State University and Oregon State University.
The project will address three primary research questions: (1) How do scientists, institutional leaders, and staff view and make decisions about the design and implementation of PES? (2) To what degree do PES activities and PES strategies consider the interests and assets of local communities, including those underrepresented in STEM? (3) How, and to what degree, can scientists, institutional leaders, and staff develop shared PES strategies aimed at enhancing reciprocal exchanges and ongoing relationships with communities? The project design includes: (a) surveys and interviews with LTER scientists, institutional leaders, and staff; (b) case studies coupled with strategic engagement planning to investigate the community contexts of PES; (c) a PES working group with LTER scientists and PES-related staff to integrate research and practice; (d) a PES monitoring system for tracking PES activities at LTER sites; and (e) an external advisory board of PES experts and representatives of other STEM research organizations to promote accountability of the work and broaden its impact beyond the LTER Network. The overall hypothesis is that it is possible to improve the effectiveness of PES through a focus on helping scientific organizations develop PES strategies in collaboration with relevant communities.
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