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CHANGING THE CONVERSATION MESSAGES FOR IMPROVING PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING OF ENGINEERING Committee on Public Understanding of Engineering Messages THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS Washington, D.C, www.nap.edu
NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESSâ 500 Fifth Street, N.W. â Washington, DC 20001 NOTICE: This publication has been reviewed according to procedures approved by a National Academy of Engineering report review process. Publication of signed work signifies that it is judged a competent and useful contribution worthy of public con- sideration, but it does not imply endorsement of conclusions or recommendations by the National Academy of Engineering. The interpretations and conclusions in such publications are those of the authors and do not purport to represent the views of the council, officers, or staff of the National Academy of Engineering. This study was supported by Contract/Grant No. ENG-0550368 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation and by grants from the Georgia Institute of Technology and S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation. Any opinions, find- ings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Changing the conversation : messages for improving public understanding of engineering / Committee on Public Understanding of Engineering Messages. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references. ISBN 978-0-309-11934-4 (pbk.) â ISBN 978-0-309-11935-1 (pdf) 1. EngineeringâUnited States. 2. EngineeringâSocial aspectsâUnited States. 3. EngineersâUnited StatesâPublic opinion. I. National Academy of Engineering. Committee on Public Understanding of Engineering Messages. TA160.4.C53 2008 620.00973âdc22 2008016992 Copies of this report are available from National Academy Press, 500 Fifth Street, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, D.C. 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); online at http://www.nap.edu Copyright 2008 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engi- neers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of S Â ciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congres- sional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of ÂSciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academyâs purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council. www.national-academies.org
COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING OF ENGINEERING MESSAGES Don P. Giddens, chair, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta Rick E. Borchelt, Johns Hopkins University, Washington, D.C. Virgil R. Carter, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, New York, New York William S. Hammack, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Leah H. Jamieson, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana James H. Johnson, Jr., Howard University, Washington, D.C. Virginia Kramer, Keiler and Company, Farmington, Connecticut Patrick J. Natale, American Society of Civil Engineers, Reston, Virginia Dietram A. Scheufele, University of Wisconsin, Madison Jacquelyn F. Sullivan, University of Colorado, Boulder Project Staff Greg Pearson, Study Director and Senior Program Officer, National Academy of Engineering Maribeth Keitz, Senior Public Understanding of Engineering Associate, National Academy of Engineering Carol Arenberg, Senior Editor, National Academy of Engineering Maria Ivancin, Consultant, President, Market Research Bureau
PREFACE This report is the final product of an 18-month study by the Com- mittee on Public Understanding of Engineering Messages, a group of experts on diverse subjects brought together under the auspices of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). The committeeâs charge was to identify and test a small number of messages that appear likely to improve the public understanding of engineering. To fulfill that charge, the committee used the services of professional marketing and com- munications firms, hired through a competitive request-for-proposals process. Working with the committee, these firms conducted qualita- tive and quantitative research to collect data and develop messages, themes, and taglines based on that data. This report follows Raising Public Awareness of Engineering, an NAE report published in 2002, which revealed that the engineer- ing community has been spending hundreds of millions of dollars a Â nnually to promote the public understanding of engineering with little measurable impact on young people or adults. That studyâs com- mittee concluded that the messages being communicated had not been developed in a systematic way and recommended that more effective, consistent messages be developed and used in a coordinated way by vii
viii Preface organizations interested in enhancing public understanding of the critical role engineers play in todayâs world. Given the concerns in the United States about the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education to global competitiveness, national security, and quality of life, the cur- rent report is especially timely. But messaging is about much more than âprimingâ the engineering-education pipeline. The vast majority of Americans will never become engineers, but all Americansâyoung and oldâcan benefit by having a better understanding of the role engineers play in the creation of technologies. Effective messaging can help raise the level of technological literacy in the general population, a key competency for the 21st century. This report will be of special interest to engineering professional societies, technology-intensive industries, colleges of engineering, science and technology centers, and other organizations that commu- nicate with policy makers, Kâ12 teachers and students, and the public at large about engineering. Federal and state agencies concerned with reforming STEM education and supporting research, innovation, and technology development similarly will find that this report can be use- ful in outreach efforts. On behalf of the committee, I urge the engineering community to embrace the very useful information in this document. Don P. Giddens, chair Committee on Public Understanding of Engineering Messages
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This report has been reviewed, in draft form, by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Academies. The purpose of this independent review process is to provide candid and critical com- ments to assist the committee and the National Academy of Engineer- ing (NAE) in making its published reports as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The reviewersâ com- ments and the draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their reviews of this report: Todd R. Allen, Global University Recruitment Team, Johnson & Johnson Tony Beard, PriceWeber Marketing Communications, Inc. Leslie Collins, National Engineers Week Foundation Eugene M. DeLoatch, School of Engineering, Morgan State University ix
Acknowledgments Kimberly D. Douglas, Women in Engineering and Science ÂProgram, Kansas State University Ioannis Miaoulis, Boston Museum of Science Jon Miller, Department of Political Science, Michigan State University Teri Reed-Rhoads, College of Engineering, Purdue University Betty Shanahan, Society of Women Engineers Lilian Wu, University Relations, IBM Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclu- sions or recommendations and did not see the final draft of the report before its public release. The review was overseen by Robert F. Sproull, Sun Microsystems, Inc., who was appointed by NAE to ensure that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were care- fully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and NAE. In addition to the reviewers, the committee wishes to thank con- sultant Maria Ivancin, Market Research Bureau, who assisted the NAE staff in overseeing the research and provided advice throughout the project. Her input was critical to the success of the study. The committee also thanks the project staff. Maribeth Keitz man- aged the committeeâs logistical and administrative needs, making sure meetings ran efficiently and smoothly. NAE senior editor Carol R. Arenberg substantially improved the readability of the report. Study director Greg Pearson managed the project from start to finish.
CONTENTS EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 1 1 INTRODUCTION 17 Messages to Promote the Public Understanding of Engineering, 21 Primer on Market Research: Lexicon and Methods, 23 The NAE Messaging Project, 29 2 DEVELOPMENT OF A POSITIONING STATEMENT, THEMES, AND MESSAGES 39 Communications Audit, 40 Reframing the Image of Engineering, 44 Developing a Positioning Statement, 45 Conclusion, 49 3 RESEARCH RESULTS 51 Qualitative Research, 52 Quantitative Research, 62 Conclusion, 86 xi
xii Contents 4 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 97 Using the Positioning Statement, Messages, and Taglines, 98 Creating a Shared Public-Relations Resource, 102 Launching a Campaign, 102 A Final Word, 104 APPENDIXES A Biographies of Committee Members 107 B In-Depth Interviews: Interviewerâs Guide 115 C Focus Groups: Moderatorâs GuideâParents 121 D Focus Groups: Moderatorâs GuideâTeens 129 E Youth Triads: Moderatorâs Guide 135 F Online Survey 141 G Complete Data TablesÂâOnline Survey* 1. Initial Sample Adults 2. Initial Sample Informed Adults 3. Initial Sample Teens 4. Initial Sample Open-ended Question 5. African American Adults Oversample 6. African American Teens Oversample 7. Hispanic Adults Oversample 8. Hispanic Teens Oversample *Appendix G is reproduced on the CD (inside back cover) that contains the full report but is not included in the printed report.
CHANGING THE CONVERSATION