Scientists and Public Outreach: Participation, Motivations, and Impediments

February 3rd, 2005 | RESEARCH

Public funding agencies are increasingly requiring “broader impact” components in research grants. Concurrently, national educational leaders are calling for scientists to partner with educators to reform science education. Through the use of survey and interview data, our study examined the participation of researchers, faculty members, and graduate students from federal research laboratories and a Research I university, who were involved in K-12 and public outreach activities. We found that scientists were often recruited into K-12 outreach activities by local departmental liaisons, colleagues, or professors. Scientists most frequently gave presentations, tutored, and organized or judged science fairs. Outreach participation varied by career stage, job type, and gender. The strongest motivating factors were a desire to contribute and enjoying their outreach experiences. For graduate students and researchers, a third motivating factor was the chance to improve their teaching and communication skills. Scientists of all types, however, viewed outreach as a form of volunteer work that was auxiliary to their other responsibilities. Time constraints due to other, higher priorities, the lower value placed on outreach by departments, and a lack of detailed information about outreach opportunities were significant barriers to participation. Even so, only a few scientists viewed their outreach experiences negatively, mostly due to classroom management, logistical, or organizational problems, or a lack of outreach skills.


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Team Members

Elisabeth Andrews, Author, University of Colorado, Boulder
Alex Weaver, Author, University of Colorado, Boulder
Daniel Haney, Author, University of Colorado, Boulder
Jeffrey Hovermill Shamatha, Author, Northern Arizona University
Ginger Melton, Author, University of Colorado, Boulder


Publication: Journal of Geoscience Education

Related URLs

Full Text via ResearchGate


Audience: General Public | Scientists
Discipline: Education and learning science | General STEM
Resource Type: Peer-reviewed article | Research Products
Environment Type: Community Outreach Programs | Informal | Formal Connections | K-12 Programs | Public Programs