Mongolia Presentation at AAAS: Christa Hasenkopf “Science Communication on a Shoestring”

American Association for the Advancement of Science

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Christa A. Hasenkopf, CIRES, University of Colorado, Boulder

“Science Communication on a Shoestring: Some Simple (and Cheap) Ways for an Individual To Expand Science Communication in a Developing Nation”

Many compelling areas of science revolve around research in developing countries.  Yet, it can be difficult for scientists within developing countries to access and share existing, up-to-date information in their field. It can also be difficult for scientists elsewhere to access data and find colleagues within the country with whom to collaborate.  This lack of science communication may result in fewer projects explored and international collaborations formed in developing countries. I outline a low investment, simple set of ways in which science communication can be improved on a topic relevant to a developing country, both within that country and globally, and can be initiated, in large part, by one individual’s efforts. Although there is no one set of solutions that will fit every field or country, the aim is to outline a few key points one could enact in a developing country in which they live, work, or have colleagues. These ideas have been implemented during a 2-year air quality study and outreach program I am conducting in Mongolia’s capital city of Ulaanbaatar.  In addition to discussing a general set of guidelines for creating a stronger infrastructure for science communication, I also show concrete examples of them performed in Ulaanbaatar over the past year on a shoestring outreach budget.

Methods & Results: Suggested methods for an individual to (cheaply) improve the infrastructure for science communication in a developing country (with results of the applied methods given as examples): (1)  Create an online resource with up-to-date information on a subject in your field related to the developing country. Make it something which others can edit and update. Ex: I have created UBAirPollution.org, a wiki that coalesces all information related to Ulaanbaatar air pollution. It has been accessed more than 6000 times by over 100 cities in 31 countries within the first 6 months of its creation. Ulaanbaatar is the city that most accesses and edits the site.(2) Create a flyer describing your research area to the general public, and, if applicable, get it translated into the developing country’s primary language. Post it online, give the file to any relevant outreach groups, and have copies available for any talks you or colleagues might give. Ex: “Ulaanbaatar Air Pollution: A fact sheet” has been created, translated into Mongolian by a university student, posted online, distributed to colleagues, and handed out at outreach functions.(3) Blog about your work, and invite your collaborators to do guest posts or interviews. Ex: I maintain “Pollution Studies in Mongolia’s Capital City,” a blog on the University of Colorado CIRES website. There, I post information on air quality issues relevant to Ulaanbaatar, describe my research activities, and interview local scientists in a “Meet Mongolia’s Scientists” series. 

Conclusion: I present concrete, budget-friendly ways with specific examples that have been successful in expanding science communication on a topic relevant to a developing country.

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