Understanding willingness to engage in “democratic outreach” among science faculty at U.S. land-grant universities

Author: Luye Bao – University of Wisconsin-Madison, China


  • Dominique Brossard – University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States
  • Mikhaila N. Calice – University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States
  • Ezra M. Markowitz – University of Massachusetts Amherst, United States
  • Kathleen M. Rose – Dartmouth College, United States
  • Dietram A. Scheufele – University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States

Scientists have long been encouraged to effectively communicate their work with the general public through participation in various science communication activities. However, minimal research has been done to systematically identify the factors that influence scientists” willingness to engage with the public at both individual and institutional levels.

This study constructs an index of “democratic outreach, which includes communication with the public through policymakers and media. Different from previous studies that analyze self-motivation and barriers, we incorporate new variables, such as academic performance and scientists” perceived value of lay public’s perspectives on discussions about scientific research. We also extend prior literature by exploring how science faculty’s university, college, department, and colleagues influence their engagement in democratic outreach.

To explore what underlying factors determine the likelihood that scientists will participate in democratic outreach with the public, media, and policymakers, we use a 2018 census survey with tenure-track science faculty at 30 land-grant doctoral universities with very high research activities across the United States (n = 5,175, respondent rate = 14.5%).

Preliminary results demonstrate that young scientists are more willing to participate in democratic outreach, suggesting a potential generational difference. Science faculty’s relative academic performance is associated with greater willingness to participate in democratic outreach. Connections to public service missions and support from department leaders are positively associated with scientists” future participation in democratic outreach. These findings reveal important factors that encourage the future development of scientists as effective public communicators. This study advances the burgeoning research in public engagement through the analysis of factors rarely previously explored.

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

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Time