Besley Receives Grant to Help Scientists Become Better Communicators

Posted on: November 3, 2014

john-besley_mainJohn Besley, Associate Professor and Ellis N. Brandt Chair in the Department of Advertising + Public Relations, received a $310,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study how scientists both view and communicate with the public.

Besley is working on the project with Anthony Dudo, Professor in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations at the University of Texas Austin, and a team of graduate students.

The project will seek out academics in a range of scientific disciplines, particularly natural, physical and social scientists. The research team will interview and survey the scientists to better understand how these communities are currently thinking about their fellow citizens.

"We want to help scientists to be better communicators," Besley said. "We will have succeeded if we can get more scientists to think about communicating in a way that helps them better connect with their communities."

Currently, there is a limited amount of research on how scientists communicate with the public. Past research has focused largely on the barriers to communication that scientists face rather than on what scientists can do to communicate effectively.

"We want to make sure they understand how to get past walls that might keep people from benefiting from their expertise," Besley said. "On the other hand, part of the work will be helping scientists understand the strategic value of listening rather than always playing the role of expert."

Along with analyzing the way scientists communicate, the project aims to get scientists to seek out further, evidence-based communication training and inspire a greater willingness to communicate.

"We want to be part of a movement toward the science of science communication," Besley said.

The research is being conducted with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and a range of other scientific societies to ensure initial opportunities for impact on engagement training practice.


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