Building a Physics Institute’s Outreach Programme from Scratch
Author: Erik Arends
We present the findings of our case study around building an outreach programme from scratch at the Leiden Institute of Physics, The Netherlands. Before we started, the institute had no official outreach programme, giving us a unique opportunity to do a clean case study, with no pre-existing factors that influence our data. We have been measuring and analysing the effects of our outreach activities towards our main goal – create more (positive) visibility for the institute and physics in general. We have focussed on the key question: What effects do our activities have towards our goal, and how do they interrelate? A quantitative analysis of Twitter, website statistics and Google Alerts gives us insight into the relationships between timing, retweets, newsletters, reach, engagement, media appearances and subject (discovery, grant or upstream communication). Furthermore, we investigate physicists’ engagement with their institute in time, by monitoring their website visits and participation in outreach, such as communicating their research to the institute’s outreach professionals. We look for a cascade effect, in which more outreach leads to more visibility amongst the researchers themselves, leading to a culture of more outreach participation. In the absence of a prior outreach programme, we have a rare, clear view on the effects of our actions. We are in a unique position to perform this clean case study at a large physics institute. From there we provide valuable do’s and don’ts for science communication practise, which is the aim of the study.