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When science goes public on the web-An analysis of the online PR strategies of German universities and research organizations

Utz Lederbogen   University of Osnabrueck

The surge of interactive media and the Internet has posed particular challenges to universities and research organizations in Germany. The virtual space of online communication has given them access to an entirely new form of publicity, enabling them to make use of a communication forum received worldwide, with its own structure, topics, means of communication, and interests. But are German universities and research organizations prepared for these challenges? Which public relations strategies have they developed, and do their offers on the Internet meet the demands of target groups? What kinds of opportunities does multimedia communication provide for enhancing the dialogue with the public?
 
This paper introduces an integrative study that was undertaken at the Free University of Berlin. It consisted of several parts: a written investigation of suppliers of science information, two online surveys aimed at the users of science news and information, and, finally, a content analysis of the websites operated by German universities and research organizations. The research objectives formulated in each partial study were overlapped somewhat, which made it easier to relate the respective results to each other. We were, for instance, able to compare the deliberations of suppliers and users with the results of the content analysis. The studies’ overall objective is to do the groundwork for the development of popular science communication on the Internet by means of analyzing empirical data, which will in turn provide a basis for practical, relevant concepts.

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