Heather: After a year of #onsci chats, we’ve covered a lot of ground. Through a range of topics we’ve talked about communicating with the general public, politicians and teachers. In our May 2012 we’d like to focus more closely on communicating research outcomes directly with the ‘end-users’.
In the agricultural sector we have a name for this kind of communication: extension. Wikipedia says that agricultural extension has been around since the mid 19th Century and was “once known as the application of scientific research and new knowledge to agricultural practices through farmer education” but now includes a range of communication and learning activities. It’s still considered such an important part of the sector that state departments of agriculture/primary industries employ people to work with farmers to adopt new technologies or change practices as a result of research. Of course, there used to be a lot more extension officers. They are facing an environment where they are expected to translate more and increasingly complex research results with diminishing resources. Sound familiar?
So is this kind of work ‘science communication’? I think it is. I think science communication is ultimately about trying to make people change, either how they act or what they think.
Do other sectors (at least those where more applied research takes place) have people whose role it is to work directly with the end-users of research? Medicine? Manufacturing? Mining?
Increasingly, even with more basic research, it is expected that there will be some kind of strategy for sharing the results of research with the broader community. Are there lessons or models from extension or similar activities that can be applied to more basic research?
And should we be sharing more ideas across the spectrum of communication, education and extension, given that we face similar challenges?
These are just my thoughts to kick things off, but I’m keen to get your thoughts. If there are any questions you’d like to add to the chat please let me know. Otherwise, I’ll see you at #onsci!
Join us this Thursday 17th May at 9pm AEST (12pm BST, 7am EDT).