National Academies Press: OpenBook

Communicating Chemistry: A Framework for Sharing Science: A Practical Evidence-Based Guide (2016)

Chapter: ELEMENT 1: Set communication goals and outcomes appropriate to the target participants.

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Suggested Citation:"ELEMENT 1: Set communication goals and outcomes appropriate to the target participants.." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Communicating Chemistry: A Framework for Sharing Science: A Practical Evidence-Based Guide. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23444.
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ELEMENT 1

Set communication goals and outcomes appropriate to the target participants.

Element 1 centers on two key concepts: goals and outcomes. A goal is a broad statement of what the communication activity intends to accomplish. An outcome is a specific change in an individual, group, or community as a result of participation in a communication activity. The goals of any communication activity should reflect the interests, needs, and characteristics of the participants. Chemists should use knowledge of the participants to identify clear and specific goals and target outcomes and to make the experience engaging and positive. The following are guiding questions to assist in setting participant-centered goals and outcomes:

  1. Who are my participants?
    1. Am I targeting a particular population segment or group?
    2. Do different segments have different goals?
    3. Why do I want to reach these participants?
  2. What will my participants find interesting, relevant, or engaging?
    1. How can I find out what is relevant or of concern to them?
    2. What prior knowledge will the participants have?

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Suggested Citation:"ELEMENT 1: Set communication goals and outcomes appropriate to the target participants.." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Communicating Chemistry: A Framework for Sharing Science: A Practical Evidence-Based Guide. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23444.
×
  1. What participant-relevant goals and outcomes do I want to achieve?
    1. What will the participants get from the event?
    2. What can I learn from the participants?
    3. How will I know if I achieve these outcomes

Who are my participants?

Information about the participants, including their level of technical knowledge and interests, is useful for developing activities that support the desired outcomes. When you begin planning, consider whether you are targeting a particular group or segment of the public. Consider characteristics such as age, technical background, and potential common interests. If the participants are children, consider possible age or developmental variations within the group. If the participants represent a broad cross-section of the public, try to determine whether they have similar goals and similar levels of knowledge on the subject matter. Participant characteristics can affect learning goals and abilities and hence can alter the appropriate communication approach. Perhaps most importantly, consider why you want to reach these participants.

As an example, you have been invited to make a presentation on the use and environmental impacts of fertilizers. The presentation will be at a local community center near a lake that has been affectedby eutrophication. Will your participants be environmental activists, the local garden club, a group of local farmers, high school students, or some combination of the above? As you can imagine, each of these groups would have different perspectives and interests, as well as varying degrees of knowledge of the topic. Can you ascertain anything about their educational or professional backgrounds?

Suggested Citation:"ELEMENT 1: Set communication goals and outcomes appropriate to the target participants.." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Communicating Chemistry: A Framework for Sharing Science: A Practical Evidence-Based Guide. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23444.
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Such information could tell you something about their level of knowledge about chemistry. Your approach to this activity should be different for each of these groups.

What will my participants find interesting, relevant, or engaging?

Social science research clearly supports the intuitive notion that people are more engaged in an activity if it is relevant to their interests and concerns. Consider how you can find out what is relevant to your intended participants.

Continuing the example above, how can you find out who will attend your presentation on fertilizers and their impacts? How can you learn what their interests might be? A good place to start is to ask the event’s organizer for participant information. Even knowing the affiliations of the registrants can be helpful. But, you may want to go further. For example, if participants are registering on a website, you could ask the organizer to add a few questions to the registration process about registrants’ interest in or level of knowledge about the topic. You could also have the organizer send a survey to registrants with a reminder of the upcoming event. If there is no preregistration, on-site assessment of interests via a show of hands or applause will at least allow you to adjust your presentation in real time if needed.

What participant-relevant goals and outcomes do I want to achieve?

Communication goals may be diverse. For example, chemists may be interested in encouraging workforce development in the chemical sciences, raising awareness about a particular area of chemical

Suggested Citation:"ELEMENT 1: Set communication goals and outcomes appropriate to the target participants.." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Communicating Chemistry: A Framework for Sharing Science: A Practical Evidence-Based Guide. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23444.
×

research that is relevant to major societal concerns (like the importance of chemistry in designing the next generation of antibiotics, or improving public trust in science and chemistry). Desired participant-relevant outcomes should accompany each communication goal. The outcomes you develop will not only enable you to better focus your activity, but will also provide a basis for evaluating the success of your event. Thus, outcomes should be realistic, achievable, and measurable.

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After learning about the expected participants and their interests, you might set your primary goal to increase awareness of the chemistry of fertilizers and their role in the home and in agriculture. Targeted outcomes for the participants could be

  • increasing their understanding of how some fertilizers can contribute to eutrophication,
  • increasing their awareness of available alternative fertilizers,
  • increasing their awareness of the variety of chemistry-related research being done on fertilizers and environmental impacts,
  • providing participants with information on how to contact the local agricultural extension office for guidance on home fertilizers, or
  • teaching participants how to use home soil-testing kits to monitor their own soil’s needs.
Suggested Citation:"ELEMENT 1: Set communication goals and outcomes appropriate to the target participants.." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Communicating Chemistry: A Framework for Sharing Science: A Practical Evidence-Based Guide. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23444.
×
Page 8
Suggested Citation:"ELEMENT 1: Set communication goals and outcomes appropriate to the target participants.." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Communicating Chemistry: A Framework for Sharing Science: A Practical Evidence-Based Guide. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23444.
×
Page 9
Suggested Citation:"ELEMENT 1: Set communication goals and outcomes appropriate to the target participants.." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Communicating Chemistry: A Framework for Sharing Science: A Practical Evidence-Based Guide. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23444.
×
Page 10
Suggested Citation:"ELEMENT 1: Set communication goals and outcomes appropriate to the target participants.." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Communicating Chemistry: A Framework for Sharing Science: A Practical Evidence-Based Guide. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23444.
×
Page 11
Next: ELEMENT 2: Identify and familiarize yourself with your resources. »
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A growing body of evidence indicates that, increasingly, the public is engaging with science in a wide range of informal environments, which can be any setting outside of school such as community-based programs, festivals, libraries, or home. Yet undergraduate and graduate schools often don’t prepare scientists for public communication.

This practical guide is intended for any chemist – that is, any professional who works in chemistry-related activities, whether research, manufacturing or policy – who wishes to improve their informal communications with the public. At the heart of this guide is a framework, which was presented in the report Effective Chemistry Communication in Informal Environments and is based on the best available empirical evidence from the research literature on informal learning, science communication, and chemistry education. The framework consists of five elements which can be applied broadly to any science communication event in an informal setting.

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