There are increasing demands on scientists to communicate their work to both the general public, and to the prospective users of the research as funding becomes more competitive. Some scientists enjoy this work and are gifted in it. Others are less gifted, and so we may have good scientists taking time from research and using it being mediocre communicators. In the agricultural/natural resource areas in particular, Governments have withdrawn support for extension services and demanded the scientists themselves pick up this role. The assumption that the research scientist has either the communication skills or the ability to put research into the real world context in which a knowledge user operates needs examination.

The CRC for Freshwater Ecology has developed a strategic communications plan which clarifies our communication objectives with particular audiences. This strategy is important since there are many opportunities to invest time and money in communications activities, and we need to ensure value for our investments. The CRC employs a Communications Manager to work with scientists to develop cost- effective means of transferring the knowledge generated by research. We have learned, as have others, that the interface between these two professional areas can be a prickly one. Scientists are often concerned about their lack of power in the communication process, and deeply concerned about being misrepresented. Some so fill their communications with qualifiers as to make the message meaningless. Strategies being developed within the CRC to reduce these problems will be outlined. These include building a trust with the communications staff and a respect for the professional values they add to our work. We have achieved this by demonstrating the value added in terms of clarifying messages and audiences, and removing some of the fears of the unknown. It also involves the wisdom to decide when to decline an opportunity to communicate. This becomes simpler once objectives are thought through

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Communicate, publish or perish – paradoxes in the emerging paradigms!

Peter Cullen  

There are increasing demands on scientists to communicate their work to both the general public, and to the prospective users of the research as funding becomes more competitive. Some scientists enjoy this work and are gifted in it. Others are less gifted, and so we may have good scientists taking time from research and using it being mediocre communicators. In the agricultural/natural resource areas in particular, Governments have withdrawn support for extension services and demanded the scientists themselves pick up this role. The assumption that the research scientist has either the communication skills or the ability to put research into the real world context in which a knowledge user operates needs examination.

The CRC for Freshwater Ecology has developed a strategic communications plan which clarifies our communication objectives with particular audiences. This strategy is important since there are many opportunities to invest time and money in communications activities, and we need to ensure value for our investments. The CRC employs a Communications Manager to work with scientists to develop cost- effective means of transferring the knowledge generated by research. We have learned, as have others, that the interface between these two professional areas can be a prickly one. Scientists are often concerned about their lack of power in the communication process, and deeply concerned about being misrepresented. Some so fill their communications with qualifiers as to make the message meaningless. Strategies being developed within the CRC to reduce these problems will be outlined. These include building a trust with the communications staff and a respect for the professional values they add to our work. We have achieved this by demonstrating the value added in terms of clarifying messages and audiences, and removing some of the fears of the unknown. It also involves the wisdom to decide when to decline an opportunity to communicate. This becomes simpler once objectives are thought through

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