Filling the Science Gap: What kind of online outreach do you engage in?

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by Lisa Willemse and Catherine Anderson

Communications, Education, & Outreach subject editors

At the end of August, the Council of Canadian Academies released a report on the state of Canadian science culture. Despite the finding that “general coverage of science in Canada in the English-language media appears comparatively underdeveloped”, they also found that “Canadians have positive attitudes towards science and technology and low levels of reservations about science compared with citizens of other countries.”

Kimberly Moynahan, Science Borealis’ Science in Society subject editor, reviewed the report in more detail earlier this week. She made two points that stood out for us as Communications, Education, and Outreach editors:

All of this creates a huge gap that Canadian science bloggers have the opportunity to fill. We certainly have that potential.

and

As most of you already know, it takes a great deal of commitment and time to keep up a blog and gain readership. It’s more than just dashing off a few thoughts from time-to-time. It’s writing regularly, researching, administration, technical maintenance, promotion, and relationship-building. It’s like running a business.

We definitely agree with this assessment.

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(Photo: M. Sauers, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

It takes a great deal of time to run a blog, create podcasts, and interact with and build an audience. It can be easier to find the time when it is part of your job, but we expect that situation represents only a small percentage of bloggers. More likely, the producers of science content in Canada are doing it on their own time, and very few are likely able to make a full time career out of it independent of a paid position inside a science-based organization or institution. How many would-be science content producers end up either abandoning their projects or not even getting them off the ground, simply due to lack of time, resources, or skills? While our intentions may be good, life often gets in the way.

We’re looking for more information to help us dig deeper into these questions. We encourage you to complete our short (5 minutes!) survey, and to please share it with science communicators and content producers in Canada and abroad.

We’ll report back on the results in our next editorial, but if you have comments and thoughts in the meantime – please share them in the comments below or via our Twitter or Facebook feeds!

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3 thoughts on “Filling the Science Gap: What kind of online outreach do you engage in?

  1. In conducting this survey, how are you going to account for response rate and other statistical measures if your survey is open publicly on the web?

    • Hi. We are doing this more to learn more about the community and see general trends. We are not going to publish this as a scientific survey but on this blog for people to see a simple snapshot of what was answered.
      We don’t expect to see any definitive answers and understand that some of the responses may not be true to the spirit intended but when we share the response, we will share caveats about the responses.

    • Hi chavite and thanks for your comment.

      On behalf of both Catherine and myself, I can say that we viewed this as an open call, with the understanding that a) social networking is the broadest way to reach and engage potential respondents compared to our own contact lists, in part because we would be using the media our intended audience uses itself, b) there is no way that we know of to track response rate for this, and c) we were not setting out to obtain a definitive or scientifically defensible answer to scicomms in Canada, but even allowing for the odd bogus response, we should be able to get a simple snapshot with which we can hopefully identify some trends. We also thought the scicomms community in Canada, and elsewhere, would be interested in getting a sense of how our kind of work (blogging, podcasting, etc.) is conducted in Canada.

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