Community Engagement, Outreach and Knowledge Mobilization

As a chemical oceanographer and aquatic geochemist, my research into the transport/cycling of trace elements and isotopes in the natural waters addresses crucial scientific issues which are also of immediate societal importance in Victoria and other coastal communities in British Columbia. Hence, I feel strongly that the results of my work, and an understanding of the scientific method in general, must be communicated directly to the public in an accessible and meaningful manner (in addition to scholarly publications in peer-reviewed journals). My overall strategy for engaging with the community through my research combines social media; articles, letters and editorials in local and international newspapers; public lectures; and television and radio appearances. Further, I believe that engaging community members in active participation in my research as “citizen scientists” is a vitally important component of breaking down perceived barriers and making science real and relevant to the public. This empowers the participants by involving them in the process of improving scientific literacy, and helps educate the public about the power and the limitations of the scientific method. The overall goal is to engage members of the public in science to promote an understanding and connection with the natural world. I focus on problems that pertain to risks to environmental and public health which include anthropogenic contamination of the environment, climate change and geoengineering. Below I provide specific examples of my outreach related to the impact of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster and potential for impacts on the west coast of North America.

Since July 2011 I have been using social media to engage with the public on scientific matters. The powerful virtual tools of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, etc. greatly expand the reach of scientists, particularly to students and the younger members of the population. These tools provide new opportunities for scientists to mobilize knowledge garnered through their research and communicate the implications of scientific discoveries directly to the public (not filtered through the formal scientific publication process—although this is also important). I am committed to exploring how social media can be a powerful tool for science communication, knowledge mobilization and community engagement.