What is the Research Ambassador Program?
The Research Ambassador Program provides appropriate guidance and rewards to academic ecosystem scientists to link their research to an existing interest, trade, or hobby of a segment of the public in non-academic venues to enhance public engagement and understanding, particularly to environmentally unaware public audiences in non-academic settings.
Pressing environmental issues such as global climate change, habitat degradation, and loss of biodiversity require innovative and responsive scientists. These problems call for much greater engagement between ecosystem scientists and non-scientific audiences, especially those who have little or no connection or access to science content or informal science education venues.
However, the current academic system does not reward – and sometimes penalizes – scientists who engage with the public. Even when scientists take time fro their expected tasks to communicate with the public, their efforts are nearly always oriented toward scientifically aware people, rather than those who have little or no access to science because of physical, cultural, or legal barriers, e.g., people in assisted living centers, urban youth, incarcerated people. Scientists thus miss the potential of getting fresh perspectives that underserved audiences might provide; and the environmentally unaware continue their isolation from scientists who might inform and inspire them.
What does the Research Ambassador Program do?
We work with academic researchers in fields of ecosystem science, connecting them with receptive but non-traditional audiences such as elderly care homes, prisons, faith-based communities, trade groups, and professional organizations. We help researchers develop accessible and interactive communication strategies, including lectures, popular magazine articles, public-friendly websites, and citizen science projects. We provide evaluation tools to assess the effects of these activities on the scientists and the public audiences.