Communicators and outreach personnel at LTER sites come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some are trained as scientists and gravitated to outreach and communications as they saw the need. Others have worked as educators, reporters or communications professionals before coming to the LTER Network. By learning from each other’s strengths, we build the Network’s capacity to reach the broader scientific community, resource managers, decision-makers, and educators.
The communications resources offered here are freely available to science communicators whether or not they are part of the LTER network. An additional set of resources—specific to LTER communications needs—is being developed for the LTER Intranet.
- So you have an exciting result? Now what? Depending on the skills and resources at your site and within your institution, there are a number of ways a site communicator might handle a news-worthy result. General guidelines are listed here, but if you’re in doubt, don’t hesitate to reach out to the NCO or to the NSF Science Communications Officer in charge of LTER for advice.
- If your result is scientifically interesting and based on site-specific data, your first stop will be the media relations office of the university or agency with which the lead author is affiliated. The media relations professionals there can help you figure out what kind of outreach makes sense. They can also advise you about timing and coordination with other investigators and institutions, including NSF. If you end up doing a press release or social media campaign, please inform the NCO well in advance, so we can help amplify the message.
- If your result relates to the Network as a whole, please contact both Marty Downs at the NCO and Cheryl Dybas at NSF so they can coordinate. Examples of such outputs include LTER Network publications, synthesis results, and Network-wide education or diversity initiatives.
- Long-term research can play a major role in improving land-, water-, and resource-management decisions. But doing media outreach on results with policy implications poses some special considerations. The Science Policy Exchange can be a useful resource for these types of projects.
- Social Media
- We use the USLTER Facebook account primarily to share information and activities among sites and with a community of LTER-associated students and educators.
- The @USLTER Twitter account is more oriented toward LTER science, data-sharing, and science communications. We track a list of LTER sites that tweet, as well as a variety of key science bloggers, journalists and twitter-savvy scientists.
- We’ve also developed a brief Twitter for Scientists primer on how to use twitter as a professional development and networking tool.
- The recently-launched US LTER YouTube account is a place to find inspiration, share your site’s videos, or maintain an online home for LTER video content.
- Video Abstracts are an exciting new trend in scientific publishing. They can be as simple to produce as recording a Skype conversation with your students. Or they can be fully scripted and incorporate photos, animations and field video. The NCO has put together an overview and tip sheet for video production, with special reference to video abstracts.
- In Spring 2017, the NCO ran an online course on developing a strategic communications plan titled Telling the Right Story, to the Right People, at the Right Time. Curriculum materials are available online.
- Want to learn more about search engine optimization? Elegant Themes has a nice blog post on writing to optimize SEO.
- The Science Communication Section of the Ecological Society of America has a useful resource guide for ecologists who are interested in building their science communication skills.