Are we getting through? Evaluating the success and impact of science communication and engagement activities

Scientists all have an obligation to society to contribute their observations and knowledge to the wider world. Additionally, to maintain public support, researchers need to be able to adapt to the rapidly changing needs of society and to clearly demonstrate the impact and value of their work. Across Australia, via initiatives like ‘Science Week’ and throughout many similar activities worldwide, many staff from various universities, institutes and research departments undertake science communication and engagement activities with school groups.
CMS and IMAS also undertakes such activities but how do we know these efforts are effective, and how can we improve the benefits and impacts of these activities? This project will work with selected schools and teachers to undertake an evaluation of the success and impact of science engagement and communication activities from the perspectives of students, teachers, parents and the scientists involved in the outreach activities. Moreover, the demonstration of ‘impact’ and ‘societal outcomes’ from research projects and from engagement activities has become an imperative for higher education institutes, driven by new agendas across the funding landscape (ARC Impact Agenda etc). However, there is little agreement on what tools and approaches can best demonstrate effectiveness and impact. Here, by applying and comparing the suitability of available models and theories of science-communication, and using a range of purported best practice evaluation tools, this project aims to determine the impacts and success of current public engagement activities. This will help us develop effective and evidence-based engagement strategies in the future, as well as to answer the question, “Are we getting through?”

Essential skills/experience:
An honour’s/master’s degree in a related field
Excellent written, oral and stakeholder communication skills

Desirable skills/experience:
Experience of the education system at primary and/or secondary school levels would be advantageous
Knowledge of contemporary issues related to marine sustainability and climate change

Prof Gretta Pecl, UTAS (
Dr Emily Ogier, UTAS
Assoc Prof Catriona MacLeod, UTAS



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