Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Researchers: What's Up?

Consider it duty...or enlightened self-interest.

By whatever label, scientists and engineers can better serve society and themselves by putting more effort into communicating with the public.

Learning to communicate in everyday language traditionally has not ranked high in scientific training. So by default, if not inclination, researchers typically leave this job to others -- and then often complain about the results.

But help is at hand, nationally and at Duke.

At its recent annual meeting, the American Association for the Advancement of Science launched a new website, called Communicating Science: Tools for Scientists and Engineers, to help researchers communicate more broadly with the public. Just a click away, researchers can participate in brief webinars on communications, get how-to tips for media interviews and learn about strategies for identifying public outreach opportunities.

The AAAS Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology, together with the National Science Foundation, also is sponsoring a series of regional training workshops to provide researchers with up-close-and-personal communications help. Coming up: an April 3 workshop at North Carolina State University.

At Duke, researchers can tap into several kinds of assistance. The Office of News & Communications holds a media training seminar each year, typically in late January. Don't want to wait until next year? One-on-one training sessions can be scheduled on request.

Also, faculty who have been contacted by the media for an interview can use -- free -- several campus radio and television studios. Convenient? In less than 45 minutes, a researcher can leave the lab, do the interview and be back at work.

With science and technology playing increasingly important roles in society -- and with funding facing increasing challenges -- getting researchers talking seems a win-win situation.

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