Sunday, June 29, 2008

Let's talk engineering - new NAE report on communicating about (careers in) engineering

The National Academy of Engineering just released a new report on the challenge of communicating with hard-to-reach audiences about careers in science. And the report is a case study on how to do it right: do careful social science research, learn to understand all your different audiences, and then develop your communication strategies based on the issues or concerns they tell you they really care about.
From the NAE summary:

Can the United States continue to lead the world in innovation? The answer may hinge in part on how well the public understands engineering, a key component of the innovation engine. A related concern is how to encourage young people particularly girls and under-represented minorities to consider engineering as a career option.

Changing the Conversation provides actionable strategies and market-tested messages for presenting a richer, more positive image of engineering. This book presents and discusses in detail market research about what the public finds most appealing about engineering as well as what turns the public off.

Changing the Conversation is a vital tool for improving the public image of engineering and outreach efforts related to engineering. It will be used by engineers in professional and academic settings including informal learning environments (such as museums and science centers), engineering schools, national engineering societies, technology-based corporations that support education and other outreach to schools and communities, and federal and state agencies and labs that do or promote engineering, technology, and science.
And my commentary, of course, is compromised by all the conflicts of interest that come with me also being a member of NAE's Committee on Public Understanding of Engineering Messages that helped produce the report.