Background The Australian Research Council's (ARC) Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology has three working laboratories around Australia engaged in cutting edge molecular biology research focused on the energy systems in plants.

Due to the nature of this scientific research it is a difficult task to peak community interest and education program participation due to the bridge between scientific understanding from scientist to the general public.

The education, training and outreach program at Plant Energy Biology has been piloting three new initiatives and training programs for the general public and its laboratory scientists in an effort to improve the quality of scientific mentoring and communication of high level research amongst the general public and working scientists.

Objective The objective of the education training and outreach program was to engage three key community groups; farmers, school students and teachers in pilot programs throughout 2007 that aim to increase their knowledge, participation and understanding of cutting edge research and the relevance to their everyday lives.

Methods Three pilot programs were designed;
1) Powerful Plants - addressing the ever increasing gap between scientific research and school science environments. It's primary aims were to increase exposure of students to working scientists and the techniques in which they are using in laboratories in their approach to research. 2) Young Scientists - enriching the ability for gifted secondary school students to recieve one on one mentoring by laboratory scientists and recieve academic extension and enrichment in a scientiifc environment.3) Lab to Land - increasing the ability of farmers to understand the techniques and research used to develop new agricultural products and provide non biased scientifc education on current scientific issues and community discussion.

Laboratory scientists were trained in communication and mentoring techniques and along with education officers delivered these programs focusing on using a range of communication methods and techniques to cater for all levels and educational preferences. These pilot projects were developed and delivered throughout 2007 with each program monitored and evaluated on a number of levels.

Results The three pilot projects have been hugely successful throughout 2007 gaining recognition and high participation and useful evaluation statistics. They have attracted much interest for extension and further growth with corporate sponsorship for 2008 and have greatly improved our centre's ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences of differing scientific comprehension levels, needs and concerns.

Conclusion These pilot educational programs primarily designed to increase a high level research facilties ability to communicate it's research across a broad spectrum of the community provide a useful model for other scientific centres and facilities wanting to increase their ability to communicate high level research and become further engaged with a general public audience on a number of levels.

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PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Scientific mentoring and communication
Closing the bridge between the laboratory and community interest

Yvonne Van Der Ploeg   University of Western Australia

Background The Australian Research Council's (ARC) Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology has three working laboratories around Australia engaged in cutting edge molecular biology research focused on the energy systems in plants.

Due to the nature of this scientific research it is a difficult task to peak community interest and education program participation due to the bridge between scientific understanding from scientist to the general public.

The education, training and outreach program at Plant Energy Biology has been piloting three new initiatives and training programs for the general public and its laboratory scientists in an effort to improve the quality of scientific mentoring and communication of high level research amongst the general public and working scientists.

Objective The objective of the education training and outreach program was to engage three key community groups; farmers, school students and teachers in pilot programs throughout 2007 that aim to increase their knowledge, participation and understanding of cutting edge research and the relevance to their everyday lives.

Methods Three pilot programs were designed;
1) Powerful Plants - addressing the ever increasing gap between scientific research and school science environments. It's primary aims were to increase exposure of students to working scientists and the techniques in which they are using in laboratories in their approach to research. 2) Young Scientists - enriching the ability for gifted secondary school students to recieve one on one mentoring by laboratory scientists and recieve academic extension and enrichment in a scientiifc environment.3) Lab to Land - increasing the ability of farmers to understand the techniques and research used to develop new agricultural products and provide non biased scientifc education on current scientific issues and community discussion.

Laboratory scientists were trained in communication and mentoring techniques and along with education officers delivered these programs focusing on using a range of communication methods and techniques to cater for all levels and educational preferences. These pilot projects were developed and delivered throughout 2007 with each program monitored and evaluated on a number of levels.

Results The three pilot projects have been hugely successful throughout 2007 gaining recognition and high participation and useful evaluation statistics. They have attracted much interest for extension and further growth with corporate sponsorship for 2008 and have greatly improved our centre's ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences of differing scientific comprehension levels, needs and concerns.

Conclusion These pilot educational programs primarily designed to increase a high level research facilties ability to communicate it's research across a broad spectrum of the community provide a useful model for other scientific centres and facilities wanting to increase their ability to communicate high level research and become further engaged with a general public audience on a number of levels.

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

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