Realising the Management Challenges for Science Communication Outreach: A Social Marketing Perspective

By Domegan, Christine; Davison, Kevin et al. | Irish Journal of Management, January 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

Realising the Management Challenges for Science Communication Outreach: A Social Marketing Perspective


Domegan, Christine, Davison, Kevin, McCauley, Veronica, Irish Journal of Management


ABSTRACT

Social marketing recognises that neither government nor education alone can solve the growing range of complex and multifaceted social policy issues facing societies around the world. Social marketing is about behavioural change for the good of the individual and society, combining individual factors with institutional, organisational and policy variables. Social marketing is, potentially, extremely compatible with and beneficial to science communication outreach. This paper discusses ways in which social marketing can enhance the management of science communication outreach as a means to engaging citizens and mobilising a science-orientated public, thereby advancing the smart economy in Ireland.

Key Words: social marketing; science communication outreach; science literacy

INTRODUCTION

Engaged and science-literate citizens increase the quality of life of all in society and strengthen democracy in society (Miller, 2001; Edwards, 2004). Science communication outreach programmes connect with diverse authences to increase public awareness of, support for and participation in science. They allow children, teachers and parents to experience science in a fun, hands-on, exciting way, to stimulate their interest and to participate in science as a school subject, higher education degree choice, career option and research avenue. The assumption is a flawless, and uni-directional, link between science interest, science literacy levels, science careers, and economic and social prosperity (Layton et al., 1993; Beetlestone et al., 1998). Hence, communication, outreach and public engagement programmes lie at the centre of the European Union's policy to create a knowledge-based economy supported by science-literate people interested in research and innovation (Government and Scientific Advice Unit, 2006). As a consequence, governments are embracing science communication outreach as part of their science policy.

However, it is also widely recognised that the traditional science communication outreach approach of advertising and communication has not resulted in the needed behavioural changes in science, i.e. an increase in science literacy and science graduates, deemed desirable and beneficial for society (Evans and Durant, 1995; Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, 2006; McCauley et al., 2006) . Ireland, in a recent Eurobarometer report (European Commission, 2010), demonstrates this very potently, reporting lower than EU average levels of stated interest in talking with friends about science and technology, new scientific discoveries and reading articles on science in newspapers and magazines or on the internet. The results of the Relevance of Science Education (ROSE) survey completed by 688 students from 29 second-level schools in Ireland signal that the great majority of students do not want 'to become a scientist' or 'to get a job in technology7 (55 per cent of students chose the extreme 'disagree' option for the former statement and 44 per cent for the latter statement).

The Irish students respond in a similar way to students in the other industrialised countries .... They share the general trend - an aversion to 'becoming a scientist' (Matthews, 2007: 75 ).

Science communication outreach and public engagement with science are not commonly associated with social marketing (Domegan, 2007; Davison et al., 2008) . Social marketing 'is about behavioural change for the good of the individual and society, combining individual factors with institutional, organizational, and policy variables' (Domegan and Bringle, 2010: 198). However, the successful application of social marketing to issues that concern societies, such as smoking, drink driving, exercise for young children, teenage drinking, safe sex and leprosy (Andreasen, 2006; Rothschild et al., 2006; Kotler and Lee, 2008; Hastings, 2007), suggests that social marketing could be employed to effectively manage and achieve the goals of science communication outreach. …

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