Structures of engagement: How institutional structures at U.S. land-grant universities impact science faculty public engagement

Author: Kathleen Rose – Dartmouth College, United States


  • Luye Bao – University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States
  • Dominique Brossard – University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States
  • Ezra Markowitz – University of Massachusetts Amherst, United States

With growing calls for increased science communication efforts, much discussion has focused on the reasons behind why some scientists choose to participate while others do not and the factors that may influence these decisions. Research over the past few years has addressed many individual-level factors that encourage participation in science communication and engagement efforts, ranging from career status to personal motivations and perceived self-efficacy. Yet, these individual-level factors do not address the larger context in which scientists are often situated, the priorities, decisions, and infrastructure at the university level. Science communication researchers and practitioners have suggested that certain institutional structures, such as an unsupportive university culture or lack of tangible rewards (e.g., during the tenure process), may suppress communication efforts. Little empirical research, however, has systematically addressed these structural factors that may encourage or discourage involvement in public science engagement.

To ground recent discussions about potentially restructuring faculty expectations and reinvesting in support for service at public universities as a way to encourage greater science communication efforts, we explore structural factors that impact public science engagement at land-grant universities across the United States.

Using data from a 2018 census survey of science faculty members at 46 land-grant universities across the U.S. (N=8,235 eligible completes; RR2=14.1%), we use hierarchical linear modeling analysis to explore how institutional structures within these universities affect the science engagement activities of their science faculty members. Structural factors can include those related to the tenure review process (e.g., importance of engagement for tenure), university support (e.g., presence of offices of outreach and engagement; engagement awards), and the attention called to engagement and outreach activities by these universities (e.g., presence in university mission statements; press releases). We end with a discussion of how these institutional structures might impact the future of science communication.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Time