Exploring How to Walk the Talk: Examining the Practical Application of Models of Science Communication in Long-Term Ecological Research Sites

Monday, 15 December 2014
Laura Bartock and Laura N Rickard, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Environmental Studies, Syracuse, NY, United States
This research investigates the relationship between science communication at a theoretical level and the practice of science communication in long-term ecological research sites (LTERs). In particular, we examine if and how the work of LTER science communication practitioners, individuals with the responsibility to communicate, report, or interpret the findings of his/her LTER with any other group, excluding through K-12 educational programs, aligns with theoretically established models of science communication. Broadly speaking, as over two decades of research in science communication attests, these models tend to emphasize the deficit approach, dialogue with and between audiences, and/or audience participation. Does the practitioners’ work fall neatly into these three “ideal type” categories, or do their practices blur the boundaries of established models? Do practitioners appeal to more than one type of model in the course of their work? Is there evidence of hybrid approaches, or other, new models that have not yet been identified in the literature? Participating organizations will be selected from the Long Term Ecological Research Network, an organization of LTERs funded by the National Science Foundation. The LTER network is actively involved in science communication, as shown by the most recent LTER Strategic Communication Plan. Science communicators may be involved in variety of practices, such as creating translational materials for policymakers to better understand the findings of LTERs, developing training courses for conservation professionals, or organizing site tours for journalists or funders. Practitioners will participate in semi-structured interviews covering how their practices relate to established models of science communication, how they view their roles and responsibilities, and how they view their audience(s). This presentation will cover emerging results from ongoing analysis of interviews conducted with a purposive sample of these individuals. The results will help to expand and refine our understanding of how well theoretical models of science communication describe real-world science communication practices, both at a broad level, and specifically within the LTER context.