Reports and Workshop Summaries

Please visit National Academies Press (NAP) website for the most recent National Academies reports and workshop summaries on public engagement and science communication. This website is no longer regularly updated. Reports and workshop summaries are available to download for free (PDF) through the NAP website.

Communicating Science Effectively: A Research Agenda (2016)

Offers a research agenda for science communicators and researchers seeking to apply this research and fill gaps in knowledge about how to communicate effectively about science, focusing in particular on issues that are contentious in the public sphere. To inform this research agenda, this publication identifies important influences – psychological, economic, political, social, cultural, and media-related – on how science related to such issues is understood, perceived, and used.

Science Literacy: Concepts, Contexts, and Consequences (2016)

Synthesizes the available research literature on science literacy, makes recommendations on the need to improve the understanding of science and scientific research in the United States, and considers the relationship between scientific literacy and support for and use of science and research.

Gene Drives on the Horizon: Advancing Science, Navigating Uncertainty, and Aligning Research with Public Values (2016)

This report outlines the state of knowledge relative to the science, ethics, public engagement, and risk assessment as they pertain to research directions of gene drive systems and governance of the research process. This report offers principles for responsible practices of gene drive research and related applications for use by investigators, their institutions, the research funders, and regulators. Chapter 7 of this report explicitly addresses considerations for engaging communities, stakeholders, and publics and makes recommendations for responsible practices.

Effective Chemistry Communication in Informal Environments (2016)

This report is organized into two sections. Part A: The Evidence Base for Enhanced Communication summarizes evidence from communications, informal learning, and chemistry education on effective practices to communicate with and engage publics outside of the classroom; presents a framework for the design of chemistry communication activities; and identifies key areas for future research. Part B: Communicating Chemistry: A Framework for Sharing Science (also available as separate download) is a practical guide intended for any chemists to use in the design, implementation, and evaluation of their public communication efforts.

Communicating to Advance the Public’s Health: Workshop Summary (2015)

Summarizes a workshop of the Roundtable on Population Health Improvement on the science of health communication, audiences, and messaging. Workshop discussions explored what it will take to generate widespread awareness, acceptance, and action to improve health, including through the entertainment media, the news media, and social media.

Trust and Confidence at the Interfaces of the Life Sciences and Society: Does the Public Trust Science? A Workshop Summary (2015)

Summary of the National Academies’ Roundtable on Public Interfaces of the Life Sciences workshop that explored empirical evidence on public opinion and attitudes toward life sciences as they relate to societal issues, whether and how contentious debate about select life science topics mediates trust, and the roles that scientists, business, media, community groups, and other stakeholders play in creating and maintaining public confidence in life sciences. Does the Public Trust Science? Trust and Confidence at the Interfaces of the Life Sciences and Society highlights research on the elements of trust and how to build, mend, or maintain trust; and examine best practices in the context of scientist engagement with lay audiences around social issues.

Public Engagement on Genetically Modified Organisms: When Science and Citizens Connect A Workshop Summary (2015)

Summary of the National Academies’ Roundtable on Public Interfaces of the Life Sciences workshop that explored perspectives on scientific engagement in a world where science is interpreted through a variety of lenses, including cultural values and political dispositions. The workshop also explored strategies based on evidence in social science to improve public conversation about controversial topics in science. Although the workshop focused on issues related to public interfaces with the life science that apply to many science policy debates, the discussions are particularly relevant for anyone involved with the GMO debate. 

The Science of Science Communication II: Summary of a Colloquium (2014)

Summarizes a Sackler Colloquium convened in September 2013 during which leading social, behavioral, and decision scientists, other scientists, and communication practitioners shared current research that can improve the communication of science to lay audiences. Speakers provided evidence-based guidance on how to listen to others so as to identify their information needs, ways of thinking about the world, and the cultural stereotypes regarding scientists.

Enhancing the Value and Sustainability of Field Stations and Marine Laboratories in the 21st Century (2014)

This report summarizes field stations’ value to science, education, and outreach and evaluates their contributions to research, innovation, and education. This report suggests strategies to meet future research, education, outreach, infrastructure, funding, and logistical needs of field stations. It also focuses on the capability of field stations to address societal needs today and in the future. Chapter 2 of the report explicitly addresses considerations for enhancing research, education, and public engagement practices at field stations and marine laboratories.

Sustainable Infrastructures for Life Science Communication: Workshop Summary (2014)

Summary of a two-part workshop by the National Academies’ Roundtable on Public Interfaces of the Life Sciences to identify infrastructure-related barriers that inhibit or prohibit life scientists from communicating about their work and characteristics of infrastructure that facilitate or encourage scientists to engage with public audiences. Discussions explored communication infrastructure across a range of life science institutions, including federal agencies, academia, industry, and nonprofit organizations and explores novel approaches to facilitate effective science communication.

Messaging for Engineering: From Research to Action (2013)

Summarizes the progress in implementing messages from the 2008 publication, Changing the Conversation: Messages for Improving Public Understanding of Engineering (see below), and recognizes the potential to galvanize additional action and thus suggests specific steps to continue and build on progress to date.

Climate Change Education: Goals, Audiences, and Strategies (2011)

Summarizes a workshop on public understanding of climate change and strategies to support decision makers. The workshop was first in a series to examine  the research on climate change and applying it in specific policy circumstances.

Chemistry in Primetime and Online: Communicating Chemistry in Informal Environments (2011)

Summarizes a workshop on how the public obtains scientific information informally and to discuss methods that chemists can use to improve and expand efforts to reach a general, nontechnical audience.

Sharing the Adventure with the Public: The Value and Excitement of Grand Questions of Space Science and Exploration: Workshop Summary (2011)

Summarizes a workshop on how NASA and its associated science and exploration communities communicate with the public about major NASA activities and programs through the lens of  ”Grand Questions” in space science and exploration.

Surrounded by Science: Learning Science in Informal Environments  (2010)

Provides tools, case-studies, and illustrative examples, and probing questions for informal science practitioners, including educators, museum professionals, university faculty, youth leaders, media specialists, publishers, broadcast journalists, and many others. Based on the National Research Council study, Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits.

Learning Science in Informal Environments: Peoples, Places, and Pursuits (2009)

Informal science is a burgeoning field that operates across a broad range of venues and envisages learning outcomes for individuals, schools, families, and society. The evidence base that describes informal science, its promise, and effects is informed by a range of disciplines and perspectives, including field-based research, visitor studies, and psychological and anthropological studies of learning.

Public Participation in Environmental Assessment and Decision Making (2008)

This report concludes that, when done correctly, public participation improves the quality of federal agencies’ decisions about the environment. Well-managed public involvement also increases the legitimacy of decisions in the eyes of those affected by them, which makes it more likely that the decisions will be implemented effectively. This report recommends that agencies recognize public participation as valuable to their objectives, not just as a formality required by the law. It details principles and approaches agencies can use to successfully involve the public.