The  Murray  Darling  Basin  is  home  to  around  10%  of  Australia’s  population.  Nearly  half  of  all Australia’s crops are grown in the Basin. Construction of major water storages on Basin rivers in the last  100  years  has  vastly  increased  economic  productivity  but  has  also  caused  many  biophysical changes,  including  widespread  salinity  problems,  reducing  biodiversity  and  threatening  future economic production in the Basin.

Outcomes  of  research  are  often  used  to  inform  resource  management.  This  requires  the  balancing  of many  economic,  production-oriented  and  environmental  interests  that  are  potentially  in  competition. Immediate behaviour change is urgently needed to manage Basin resources, and scientists are often at the  coalface  between  community  and  government  agencies  in  effecting  these  changes  in  the community.

Using  concepts  gathered  from  social  identity  theory  (SIT),  this  paper  examines  the  processes  that enhance  or  inhibit  communication  between  scientists  and  the  Murray  Darling  Basin  communities. Focus  group  discussions  with  local  community  groups  and  others  in  the  region  were  conducted  to determine these processes.

Results  show  that  participants  from  community  groups  with  regular  exposure  to  scientists  had  a greater involvement in and awareness of the importance of the research and how the findings could be applied. Participants from community groups without much face-to-face interaction with scientists felt that  scientists  were  poor  collaborators,  worked  in  isolation,  did  not  understand  the  needs  of  the community and were not interested in applying their research to real situations.

These  perceptions  could  have  a  large  impact  on  how  effective  communication  can  be  in  initiating behavioural  change  and  therefore  must  be  managed  effectively.  Based  on  this  research,  the  social identity of participants and their perceptions of other groups that they come into contact with must be taken into account when planning communication for behaviour change in community settings.

 



 

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Scientists on the Murray
The role of scientists in communicating behaviour change in Australia’s Murray Darling Basin

Michelle Riedlinger   The University of Queensland/Econnect Communication

Susan McKay   The University of Queensland

Cindy Gallois   The University of Queensland

Jeffery Pittam   The University of Queensland

The  Murray  Darling  Basin  is  home  to  around  10%  of  Australia’s  population.  Nearly  half  of  all Australia’s crops are grown in the Basin. Construction of major water storages on Basin rivers in the last  100  years  has  vastly  increased  economic  productivity  but  has  also  caused  many  biophysical changes,  including  widespread  salinity  problems,  reducing  biodiversity  and  threatening  future economic production in the Basin.

Outcomes  of  research  are  often  used  to  inform  resource  management.  This  requires  the  balancing  of many  economic,  production-oriented  and  environmental  interests  that  are  potentially  in  competition. Immediate behaviour change is urgently needed to manage Basin resources, and scientists are often at the  coalface  between  community  and  government  agencies  in  effecting  these  changes  in  the community.

Using  concepts  gathered  from  social  identity  theory  (SIT),  this  paper  examines  the  processes  that enhance  or  inhibit  communication  between  scientists  and  the  Murray  Darling  Basin  communities. Focus  group  discussions  with  local  community  groups  and  others  in  the  region  were  conducted  to determine these processes.

Results  show  that  participants  from  community  groups  with  regular  exposure  to  scientists  had  a greater involvement in and awareness of the importance of the research and how the findings could be applied. Participants from community groups without much face-to-face interaction with scientists felt that  scientists  were  poor  collaborators,  worked  in  isolation,  did  not  understand  the  needs  of  the community and were not interested in applying their research to real situations.

These  perceptions  could  have  a  large  impact  on  how  effective  communication  can  be  in  initiating behavioural  change  and  therefore  must  be  managed  effectively.  Based  on  this  research,  the  social identity of participants and their perceptions of other groups that they come into contact with must be taken into account when planning communication for behaviour change in community settings.

 



 

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

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