Friday, 15 June 2012

Assessing community impact of Australian science

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survey“There hasn't been any systematic tool to measure effectiveness [of the programs] and a lot of the current evaluation mechanisms are fairly basic." —Jesse Shore. Image: iStockA NATIONWIDE audit funded by the ‘Inspiring Australia’ strategy is currently underway to compile ‘snapshot’ of the country’s science engagement programs as a first step towards the development of an effective assessment method.

The project—led by Australian Science Communicators (ASC), Econnect Communication and Bridge8—will create the snapshot based on information gathered from a public online survey, focus groups, and interviews with organisations delivering science engagement activities.

The audit is in response to the initial Inspiring Australia Expert Working Group’s recommendation for the development of an ‘evidence based assessment mechanism for the effectiveness of science engagement activities’. 

ASC director Jesse Shore says ‘The Big Snapshot of Australian Science’ will create a platform that will improve implementation and scheduling of initiatives such as the ‘Inspiring Australia’ strategy.

“There hasn't been any systematic tool to measure effectiveness [of the programs] and a lot of the current evaluation mechanisms are fairly basic.

“They [the government] were getting feedback about the programs, but it was effectively anecdotal,” he says.

Mr Shore says the database produced by project will be the product of a more rigorous approach in the measurement of engagement programs.

“One of the things the audit will look at is the where and what we are delivering as science engagement activities.

“It is sort of like answering the question of who, what, where, when and how,” he says.

The program also includes academic advisors Professor Nancy Longnecker from UWA, Dr Rod Lamberts of ANU, and Dr Joan Leach of UQ.

According to Prof Longneker—who recently received funding for her UWA "Developing evaluation tools for science engagement” project— University researchers already studying evaluation methods will use the database as a foundation.

“The first step is to get this snapshot to find out what is going on around WA and Australia to gain some idea of what is working well, and then develop a tool that can be used across the board.

“It is a difficult thing to do because a lot of the different activities have different objectives, and if you have a different objective then you want a different measure,” Prof Longneker says.

The snapshot’s report, which will be published at the end of August this year, will audit current and future programs active from January 2011 to June 2013.

The project’s public online survey is available at and is open until 30th of June.

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