Science outreach is an excellent way to improve community profile and general name recognition. For example, thousands of New Yorkers visit The Rockefeller University campus annually for the purpose of participating in a RockEDU Science Outreach program. These visitors are members of our community who may not have a direct interest in biomedical research, or may not live or work in the vicinity of our campus, and therefore do not necessarily know about our existence, purpose, or achievements (which are many!). However, by making our science more accessible to broader audiences through science outreach, we have been able to significantly improve university visibility.
Relatedly, science outreach has powerful potential to attract philanthropy. Again, drawing from experience with RockEDU, science outreach is an excellent way to communicate the value of scientific research to donor candidates. As mentioned previously, the essence of science outreach involves mutual learning opportunities for all parties involved. Scientists carrying out outreach activities can present their science in accessible ways while also gaining understanding around donor candidate interests, which helps to shape relationships in beneficial ways. We have found that partnering with our development office has been incredibly effective for bringing in philanthropic support for both science outreach and research endeavors.
Science outreach can also serve as an excellent mechanism for community building within a scientific organization. It is not uncommon for scientists to feel isolated as they pursue their research, which can have a negative impact on work efficiency, job satisfaction, attention to project details, etc. In fact, in a recent workplace survey conducted by Harvard Business Review, scientists and engineers ranked among the loneliest at both the trainee and professional levels. The introduction of activities that bear a “shared meaning” have been shown to combat these feelings of loneliness, and foster a supportive and collaborative work environment. Bringing scientists together around science outreach is an effective way to develop “shared meaning,” and promote the much needed sense of purpose. Anecdotally, I have had many scientists share with me how science outreach has impacted their view on being a part of the scientific community, and is a viewpoint broadly represented by the following quote:
I am still very excited about [your science outreach event], it was such a great feeling to be part of it all. For the first time since arriving to campus I felt a sense of togetherness, which I find so important and inspiring. I truly believe that scientists should not work in a vacuum and should always give back some of their acquired knowledge. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to be part of this important, shared mission, we all had a blast!
Bringing scientists together around science outreach can also help identify areas for collaboration, build professional networks, and promote general workplace positivity.