Background : The role of "Science Communicator" is often merged into the role of "Project Manager" in science related projects. Just as science communication requires a unique set of skills, project management also demands a skill set that demands attention to governance, detail, ability to communicate and also manage change and the inevitable issues and risks that arise. Projects have a defined amount of resources, are finite and have three common features; change, they are unique and they are temporary. Many science related projects are short term externally funded "projects". It is crucial then that the Project Coordinator (usually a Science Communicator) is also able to not only communicate effectively BUT also take on the role Project Manager. Anecdotally, Science Communicators problems with communication often stem not from pure communication problems but poor or ill defined project management controls. In 2001, the Murray-Darling Basin Commission (MDBC) in South Eastern Australia looked at a best practice method of project management called PRINCE2. Whilst this method has origins in the UK IT industry it was also used to develop the now well acclaimed MDBC approach to strategic communication planning. Since 2001 the method is now being used in a range of non IT projects in Australia and preliminary work is being undertaken in adapting and using it in a science communication context. By getting the project management issues under control, communication aspects are not only being understood but effectiveness greatly improved. Methods : The method uses a series of set controls, but places great emphasis at the start of the project in establishing a clear understanding of the project objectives, risks and proposed benefits and the governance and assistance needed. The focus on clarity of message and management by key decision points also forces the senior management of the project to review progress and ensure that they are "still on message". This interactive workshop introduces the participants to an internationally known and proven project management technique and due to the experience of the presenter (an accredited PRINCE2 Practitioner and Trainer), how this technique can enhance science communication. Results : Current work is being undertaken to train science communicators and natural resource managers in using PRINCE2 project management. The presenter, Lawrie Kirk has a record of achievement in the area of strategic science communication and is now focusing his career on training in project management. The use of existing project management methodologies is proving to be a powerful tool in improving engagement and empowering scientists to be more effective in delivering their message. It recognises the dual role that Science Communicators have to also take in managing an entire project. Conclusions : Existing models for project management that have been used for over 20 years can be successfully adapted to suit science related projects. Science communicators can enjoy not only improved governance and senior management involvement, but can communicate more effectively due to agreed controls, tolerances and a more formalized way to change and adapt during the life of the project.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Improving Science Communication Project Management

Lawrence Kirk   Tanner James Management Consultants

Background : The role of "Science Communicator" is often merged into the role of "Project Manager" in science related projects. Just as science communication requires a unique set of skills, project management also demands a skill set that demands attention to governance, detail, ability to communicate and also manage change and the inevitable issues and risks that arise. Projects have a defined amount of resources, are finite and have three common features; change, they are unique and they are temporary. Many science related projects are short term externally funded "projects". It is crucial then that the Project Coordinator (usually a Science Communicator) is also able to not only communicate effectively BUT also take on the role Project Manager. Anecdotally, Science Communicators problems with communication often stem not from pure communication problems but poor or ill defined project management controls. In 2001, the Murray-Darling Basin Commission (MDBC) in South Eastern Australia looked at a best practice method of project management called PRINCE2. Whilst this method has origins in the UK IT industry it was also used to develop the now well acclaimed MDBC approach to strategic communication planning. Since 2001 the method is now being used in a range of non IT projects in Australia and preliminary work is being undertaken in adapting and using it in a science communication context. By getting the project management issues under control, communication aspects are not only being understood but effectiveness greatly improved. Methods : The method uses a series of set controls, but places great emphasis at the start of the project in establishing a clear understanding of the project objectives, risks and proposed benefits and the governance and assistance needed. The focus on clarity of message and management by key decision points also forces the senior management of the project to review progress and ensure that they are "still on message". This interactive workshop introduces the participants to an internationally known and proven project management technique and due to the experience of the presenter (an accredited PRINCE2 Practitioner and Trainer), how this technique can enhance science communication. Results : Current work is being undertaken to train science communicators and natural resource managers in using PRINCE2 project management. The presenter, Lawrie Kirk has a record of achievement in the area of strategic science communication and is now focusing his career on training in project management. The use of existing project management methodologies is proving to be a powerful tool in improving engagement and empowering scientists to be more effective in delivering their message. It recognises the dual role that Science Communicators have to also take in managing an entire project. Conclusions : Existing models for project management that have been used for over 20 years can be successfully adapted to suit science related projects. Science communicators can enjoy not only improved governance and senior management involvement, but can communicate more effectively due to agreed controls, tolerances and a more formalized way to change and adapt during the life of the project.

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