Communicating Science to Diverse Audiences: A Case Study

In a recent PNAS report, Kirsten Grorud-Colvert and colleagues summarise the communication strategy implemented for the establishment of marine reserves off the Californian coast, and suggest that the framework used could and should be adopted more widely by the scientific community.

Effective communication in conservation science is vital, and the authors state that scientists who see communication as a top-down transmission of information run the risk of alienating key audiences – particularly those who are knowledgeable about the issue.

The audiences in question are usually extremely diverse, with different levels of technical knowledge, values and opinions. Hence no single form of communication will be most effective at reaching all of them.

The authors continue to outline a four-step strategy used in the case study, involving;

  1. Getting to ‘know the audience‘ – identifying the needs, level of knowledge and background of different groups, and using this to tailor communication efforts
  2. Identifying ‘main messages‘ – including the original problem, why this should matter to the audiences, the actions required, and what benefits the audiences would derives from those actions
  3. Choosing communication tactics – a diverse range of communication approaches were used, including printed materials, web content and presentations to small groups
  4. Measuring the success of communications

The strategy used in the case study involved collaboration between scientists, graphic designers, communication professionals, and policy experts, and the authors assert that this framework should become more prevalent. In addition, they suggest that a communication strategy should be an inherent component of research grants, and that scientists should make the most the growing body of available resources.

The full report can be read here.