University Researchers and Public Communication – What Influences their Intention to Engage with Non-Experts

Author: Santiago Nicolas Canete

There have been many calls to the mobilization of scientists to engage meaningful interactions with non-experts, but research seeking to explain and predict participation in science communication is still developing. This project used an expanded version of the theory of planned behavior as a model to examine whether determined demographic, institutional and cognitive factors influence researchers’ intention to participate in public engagement with science activities, such as giving public talks, writing popular science articles or talking to young students in schools. Data from a stratified random sample of researchers at North Carolina State University (n=404) were collected and subsequently analyzed through hierarchical multiple regression. Findings indicate that there are six significant independent predictors of scientists’ intentions to engage with the public: past training, past participation, attitude, moral norm, managerial norm and role in a funded project. Based on these results, it is concluded that experience, liking, and accountability are the major factors influencing this type of behavior. Implications of these results for initiatives aiming at stimulating researchers’ participation in public communication are discussed and overall recommendations are provided.