Academic scientists have a number of avenues through which they can participate in education and outreach (E/O) programs to address the mandate for broader impacts. As a principal investigator (PI) at an R1 institution, I (Girguis) have both developed and participated in a variety of E/O programs that span the spectrum from ad hoc groups (e.g. informal high school internships in my laboratory) to regional efforts (e.g. Harvard’s Microbial Science Initiative) and national organizations (e.g. RIDGE 2000; Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence, COSEE). Each of these E/O efforts required varying degrees of preparation and participation by my laboratory members (e.g. graduate students and postdoctoral researchers) and I, and yielded different outcomes and products.
Ad hoc programs typically require a higher degree of effort on the part of the PI and have a high, though local, impact on the audience. These programs can be personally rewarding for the PI, who likely has played a major role in developing the program. In contrast, working with regional and national groups requires PIs to understand the nature of each program to successfully integrate within the existing structure. The net time and effort invested by scientists in larger-scale E/O efforts may be equal to that of ad hoc programs. However, interaction with high-quality program facilitators ensures that the outcomes are grounded in best educational practices and that outputs are educator-vetted, well maintained (online or through publications), and broadly disseminated. In addition, program facilitators also collect and analyze evaluation data to provide constructive feedback to PIs, enabling the latter to refine their presentation styles and content levels to improve future E/O efforts. Thus involvement with larger programs can effectively broaden one’s impact.
During this presentation, we will present one scientist’s perspective on the advantages and limitations of these different modes of E/O, including specific examples from the past three years of working with COSEE-OS. We will share “lessons learned” regarding the efficacy of these various modes of E/O, and will also discuss those factors that influence a PI’s decision to participate in E/O programs.
Presented by: Peter R. Girguis, Christy Herren, and Annette deCharon
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2010 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA