Background: As an international project of the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP) the Global Carbon Project (GCP) produces synthesis science research addressing the human‐carbon‐climate system. Although their fundamental focus is on communication between scientists, the GCP has reached a much greater audience through active and strategic efforts to publicise their research results. The lessons from this small organisation can inform the communication practices of scientists wishing to reach a broader audience with few resources by engaging external agents who disseminate the information beyond the initial release.

Objective/Hypotheses: The GCP have achieved international recognition for their work without a formal communication strategy or budget. Identification and understanding of the underlaying communication activities of the GCP was the primary goal of the study. It was supposed that they gained broad awareness of their work by focusing their limited resources on projects targeted at their highest priority audiences: carbon scientists and environmental policy makers. The mechanisms that promoted the information to a wider audience were to be identified.

Methods: During a 12 month period I acted as a part‐time communications officer for the GCP, observing the decision making process and preparing a range of communications centred around international meetings. These observations were developed into a case study where the artefacts of the communication process were compared in light of the science presented, opportunity chosen, resources needed and agents of dissemination attracted.

Results: A range of communication artefacts were produced which were targeted at gaining mass media attention by treating results as newsworthy, using publication in peer reviewed journals as a trigger. Internet resources were developed and expanded to facilitate uptake of the information by media networks and increase traffic on the GCP website. Artefacts which did not target the mass media reached very specific but much smaller audiences

These initiatives included the content for a brochure produced by Scope and UNESCO which was distributed at the COP12 meeting in Nairobi, a poster for the 2006 ESSP conference in Beijing, and an updated and ‘web 2.0’ compliant website Conclusions: The success of the GCP efforts relied on the actions of agents of dissemination who promoted the carbon science messages for their own purposes. The widest information dispersal was achieved through the use of press releases for results published in peer reviewed journals. This engaged wide, but short lived international media attention which generated a secondary wave of dispersal through unregulated channels.

The issue of authority in science communication was highlighted by the ready acceptance of findings when delivered in the time honoured tradition of the peer reviewed journal. The further dissemination of information through media networks, news services and the social networks of informal web logs or blogs took the information away from the careful framing of the scientific study and brought it into the imperfect recollection of public awareness. These agents disseminated the information through unexpected avenues using the results to further causes and prove personal points.

This case study has been written as a master’s sub‐thesis for The Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at Australian National University.

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 [PCST]
PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Global Carbon Project communications
Agents of dissemination

Liese Coulter   Global Carbon Project

Background: As an international project of the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP) the Global Carbon Project (GCP) produces synthesis science research addressing the human‐carbon‐climate system. Although their fundamental focus is on communication between scientists, the GCP has reached a much greater audience through active and strategic efforts to publicise their research results. The lessons from this small organisation can inform the communication practices of scientists wishing to reach a broader audience with few resources by engaging external agents who disseminate the information beyond the initial release.

Objective/Hypotheses: The GCP have achieved international recognition for their work without a formal communication strategy or budget. Identification and understanding of the underlaying communication activities of the GCP was the primary goal of the study. It was supposed that they gained broad awareness of their work by focusing their limited resources on projects targeted at their highest priority audiences: carbon scientists and environmental policy makers. The mechanisms that promoted the information to a wider audience were to be identified.

Methods: During a 12 month period I acted as a part‐time communications officer for the GCP, observing the decision making process and preparing a range of communications centred around international meetings. These observations were developed into a case study where the artefacts of the communication process were compared in light of the science presented, opportunity chosen, resources needed and agents of dissemination attracted.

Results: A range of communication artefacts were produced which were targeted at gaining mass media attention by treating results as newsworthy, using publication in peer reviewed journals as a trigger. Internet resources were developed and expanded to facilitate uptake of the information by media networks and increase traffic on the GCP website. Artefacts which did not target the mass media reached very specific but much smaller audiences

These initiatives included the content for a brochure produced by Scope and UNESCO which was distributed at the COP12 meeting in Nairobi, a poster for the 2006 ESSP conference in Beijing, and an updated and ‘web 2.0’ compliant website Conclusions: The success of the GCP efforts relied on the actions of agents of dissemination who promoted the carbon science messages for their own purposes. The widest information dispersal was achieved through the use of press releases for results published in peer reviewed journals. This engaged wide, but short lived international media attention which generated a secondary wave of dispersal through unregulated channels.

The issue of authority in science communication was highlighted by the ready acceptance of findings when delivered in the time honoured tradition of the peer reviewed journal. The further dissemination of information through media networks, news services and the social networks of informal web logs or blogs took the information away from the careful framing of the scientific study and brought it into the imperfect recollection of public awareness. These agents disseminated the information through unexpected avenues using the results to further causes and prove personal points.

This case study has been written as a master’s sub‐thesis for The Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at Australian National University.

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

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