Building the Bridge to Help Engage your Audience to your Science and Mission

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 1:55 PM
Karen Yuen, JPL/NASA, Pasadena, CA, United States
When we talk about NASA and how NASA is contributing to societal benefits, such as education, what do we really mean? How do we know that we are doing something right? And how do we know that we are making a difference? With just over a dozen NASA Earth remote sensing missions flying, NASA is providing remote sensing data on a daily basis, where the data and information can contribute to the relevancy of science in our daily lives and bring perspective to common knowledge. To date, we are seeing a widening gap in the general awareness and understanding of the basic science and concepts among the formal and informal audiences. At a time when we are discovering and understanding more about our home planet, using cutting edge technologies that should inspire people, we have also discovered that we have estranged a generation of potentital users.

The reality is that NASA data is being used by a relatively small group of people and they are nearly all scientists. Even when we “collaborate” with other federal agencies or universities, the actual work and impact remains on a scale that is only statistically significant. This is a far cry from being socially significant. There are key factors that are essential for success in communicating and working with both the technical and less technical audiences; they are the foundation to bridging the audience gaps and ultimately, truly engaging them. We need to show that the content is important and meaningful in our everyday lives by appealing to the audiences' sensibilities, packaging the content in a format that will be used by the audience, and we need to encourage and support people to create and innovate with this data and information. When you come right down to it, NASA is still the only agency that is continually putting up the new technologies, enabling and maintaining that crucial data flow, and supporting the umbilical cord of global data sets to the science community world-wide. But times have changed. It is not sufficient to only reach out to the same scientific communities and say that we are increasing our data users, when we know that talent pool is dwindling and aging. We need to start expanding our user base and that should include support for content developement and alignment for K-12 students, pre-service teacher preparation, introduction to data use and analysis and citizen science projects.