Engaging the Public
Broader Impacts: The Public and Your Work
You may wonder how public engagement activities fit into your work at the lab or office, particularly if much of the work you do is specialized or (seemingly) isolated. How can talking to people outside your work help you in the lab? Can public engagement really come into play when considering funding or future projects?
Over the past several years, there has been increasing recognition in federal science organizations and funding agencies that research scientists should consider the impact of their work beyond the lab. Further, agencies are more proactive in encouraging scientists to become directly involved in education and public outreach.
Consider, for example, the Broader Impacts Criterion of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). In 1997, the National Science Board took a critical step in fostering cultural change in the scientific community by requiring explicit consideration of the broader impacts of research in every research proposal requesting NSF funding.
While the broader impacts requirement applies specifically to NSF funding, consider going through the process of examining your work through this lens even when not required to do so. In time, considering your work in a broader light will become second nature and help you to better understand how you might engage the public with your research. Participating in public engagement activities can be extremely useful in truly understanding the broader impacts of your work.