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Internal and public communication during the Dutch scientific polar expedition to Edgeøya

Anne Land-Zandstra  

In the summer of 2015, fifty scientists, accompanied by journalists, artists, policy makers and tourists undertook the largest Dutch scientific polar expedition (SEES.NL) ever, to Edgeøya Svalbard. Scientists partly replicated research performed during earlier expeditions to gain insight in the effects of human actions on the vulnerable polar regions. One of the goals of the expedition was to increase public awareness about these issues through outreach to the general public by using blogs, social media, newspapers, tv, radio, websites, etc. Because of the complexity of the consortium with on the one hand a central message and one overarching goal and on the other hand individual scientists with their own agendas, the outreach was impacted by internal communication (within the consortium) as well as public communication (from members of the consortium to the general public). The aim of the current study was to investigate this process of internal and external communication, to determine how interdisciplinary groups (scientists, journalists, expedition leaders) interacted and how these interactions influenced external public communication. Interviews and questionnaires before the expedition showed that although there was a main message that the scientific expedition leaders hoped to convey, many of the scientists had their own agendas and were not completely aware of this central message. During the expedition, observations were conducted to investigate the internal communication within the consortium. After the expedition, a second questionnaire will be conducted to evaluate the communication strategies of the scientists. In addition a content analysis of the public outreach will be performed to investigate the link between internal communication and public communication. In particular, we will determine if the central message of the expedition was prevalent in the media or that individual stories and studies were dominant. Findings of this study will provide pointers for internal communication designs of similar research consortia.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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