Earth & Sky Summative Evaluation: Edge of Discovery Series Study 2

August 9th, 2005 | EVALUATION

Earth & Sky is a daily short-format science series for both commercial and public radio. Produced by EarthTalk, Inc. of Austin, TX, the series is hosted by Deborah Byrd and Joel Block and consists of 90-second programs on a wide variety of topics mostly drawn from environmental sciences, earth sciences and astronomy. With support from the National Science Foundation, Multimedia Research presents the second study of a two-part summative evaluation on the impact of Earth & Sky on public radio listeners, focusing on traditional formats as well as the new “Edge of Discovery” programming that presents scientists describing their own research. The evaluation focused on what demographic or background characteristics relate to whether or not one listens to Earth & Sky and to frequency of listening; what effects the series has on listeners and what kind of actions the series has prompted in listeners. Questionnaires were mailed to random names drawn from member subscriber lists of public radio stations serving the areas surrounding Missoula, MT, Columbia, MO, and Boston, MA. Of the 2964 questionnaires that adult public radio members received, 2005 or 68% were returned for analysis. A majority (86%) of our public radio members listen to Earth & Sky and 47% hear it frequently. Both listeners and non-listeners equally felt that it is important to hear from scientists about their research – this result supports the need for scientists themselves presenting research in the “Edge of Discovery” format. Half of the listeners wrote of a positive impact of the “Edge of Discovery” format, featuring scientists speaking of their research. Listeners appreciated and enjoyed the format; thought the format added a personal dimension to scientists and science; acquired a better understanding of scientific inquiry; appreciated the credibility of hearing from the scientists themselves; felt a greater respect for scientists and science; and indicated the format humanized scientists and science. A small 1% of listeners complained that the show was too short for scientists to present their research. The remaining listeners either did not answer the question (25%), did not recognize the format (5%), felt no impact (10%), or felt no impact because they already had a positive attitude that the format reinforced (6%). Comparisons of listeners currently versus listeners three years ago (see Study 1) reveal significant differences only with respect to Internet usage. Current listeners report higher use of the Internet as a major source of science news and were more likely to report that Earth & Sky prompted them to access a website. Otherwise, Earth & Sky continues to maintain the high listener appeal and impact levels that it obtained three years ago.



Team Members

Barbara Flagg, Evaluator, Multimedia Research


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: ISE
Award Number: 0128985

Related URLs

Earth & Sky's "Edge of Discovery" Radio Series for NSF's Public Understanding of Research Program


Audience: Evaluators | General Public | Museum | ISE Professionals | Scientists
Discipline: Geoscience and geography | Space science
Resource Type: Evaluation Reports | Summative
Environment Type: Broadcast Media | Media and Technology | Websites | Mobile Apps | Online Media