National Academies Press: OpenBook

Support Organizations for the Engineering Community (1985)

Chapter: Appendix A: Public Information and Media Outreach Activities

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Suggested Citation:" Appendix A: Public Information and Media Outreach Activities." National Research Council. 1985. Support Organizations for the Engineering Community. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/590.
Page 61
Suggested Citation:" Appendix A: Public Information and Media Outreach Activities." National Research Council. 1985. Support Organizations for the Engineering Community. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/590.
Page 62
Suggested Citation:" Appendix A: Public Information and Media Outreach Activities." National Research Council. 1985. Support Organizations for the Engineering Community. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/590.
Page 63
Suggested Citation:" Appendix A: Public Information and Media Outreach Activities." National Research Council. 1985. Support Organizations for the Engineering Community. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/590.
Page 64

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APPENDIX A Public information and Media Outreach Activities Several types of efforts to foster media and thus public understanding of engineering and technology are already being made. These range from the standard public relations operations of most companies and professional societies to a small number of more innovative projects. The Media Resource Service ~MRS) was established in 1980 by the Scientists' Institute for Public Information as a free referral service available to all members of the media seeking reliable sources with scientific and technological expertise. MRS maintains a data base of more than 15,000 experts from academia, government, and private research/consulting organizations who have agreed to answer media questions in their areas of specialization. When a journalist calls with a question, the MRS staff searches the program's database to find the appropriate specialists, examining such criteria as fields of expertise, geographical location Where applica- ble~, and position on controversial issues {representatives of two or more sides are always givenJ. In almost all cases, the staff then calls each expert to determine availability and to alert him or her that the journalist will be calling. This serves simultaneously to clear the way for the journalist and to allow the expert an opportunity to prepare for the journalist's question. The American Institute of Chemical Engineers jAIChE) devotes its principal outreach efforts to promoting coverage of its national meet- ings and conferences and its brochures and fact sheets on specific issues. The AIChE has done some limited videotape distribution profil 61

62 APPENDIX A ing the role of the chemical engineer Five 30-second and one 60-second public service announcements and one 60-second radio spotJ. The institute's Public Relations Committee is being reorganized to create better opportunities to provide technically accurate information to the press. The American Society of Civil Engineers ~ASCE~ has prepared infor- mation kits on infrastructure issues and on the water crisis for distribu- tion to its sections end benches. These kits, including slides, booklets, andpress releases, provide background technical information. Sections and branches are encouraged to arrange for media use of these materi- als. The ASCE has also produced two movies, one entitled "America in Ruins," the other on civil engineering education. In addition, the soci- ety has put together a four-color booklet on the role of the civil engineer {largely as a career guidance aide in conjunction with a 20-second public service announcement {PSALM television spot. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers FASTEN arranges for media coverage of technical conferences and publishes articles in ASME publications. It also produces films, including one on its His- toric Mechanical Landmarks Program featuring technologically signif- icant devices. Films are distributed to sections, schools, and civic groups. Occasional TV spot announcements are also produced. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers IEEE) has com- piled a technical resources directory for distribution to the media. It lists dozens of experts Including names, addresses and phone num- bers~ in approximately 100 areas of technology. IEEE held a media tech- nology briefing on robotics and as part of its recent annual meeting held five sessions with 16 engineers and 38 editors on supercomputers, defense electronics, communications, technology for the handicapped, and electric power transmission. It has produced two PSAs lone 60- second spot, one 30-second that have also been adapted to print. A 28- minute film oriented to a nontechnical audience describes the role of the electrical engineer. Finally, IEEE has fostered extensive media cov- erageofitsactivities {e.g., centennial) end publications E.g., special issues of Spectrum on space technology and supercomputers~. The National Society of Professional Engineers UNOPEN is preparing an engineering experts directory for direct distribution to the media and for distribution through the society's chapters. NSPE conducts public relations seminars for its members to encourage them to work with the media and has prepared a public relations handbook for engineers. It has fostered media coverage of its activities and routinely arranges inter- views for the president of the society when he travels. NSPE also tries to

APPENDIX A 63 inform the media about the profession through sponsorship of the Out- standing Engineering Achievement Awards and National Engineers Week. The society reaches into hundreds of communities through an extensive scholarship program and MATHCOUNTS. NSPE also spon- sors awards programs for both print and broadcast journalism. Beyond the efforts of engineering societies, centers of engineering excellence have also worked to improve media understanding of tech- nology. Several corporations E.g., WestinghouseJ have provided time and training for engineers to make media appearances discussing tech- nology. Most engineering colleges have at least one public information staff person who can serve as a conduit for the press to expert faculty. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology {MITJ conducts the Van- nevar Bush Fellowships in the Public Understanding of Technology and Science. The program is designed for eight experienced technology and science journalists per year. Its aims are to recognize individual achievement and to provide journalists with the opportunity to expand their contacts and conduct a lengthy research project. The host MIT also benefits from the development of new pathways by which to describe developing technologies and their implications to the public. Another program bringing experts and media together is the New Horizons series of meetings held annually by the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing ~CASWJ in cooperation with a host university. In these 4-day sessions, engineers and scientists make pre- sentations on new research findings. Nightly social gatherings bring experts and journalists together to foster the development of personal contacts. The CASW has also held four regional sessions on issues relating to public health and the environment as well as occasional 1-day meetings in Washington, D. C., on science policy issues. The American Association for the Advancement of Science {AAASJ has since 1975 conducted its Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellows Program. {Engineering was added to the title in 1982.J The program aims to strengthen the relationship between scientists and engineers and the media by allowing advanced students in science/ engineering to work for a summer on newspapers and magazines and at TV and radio stations. About 150 students have participated in the program, with several continuing on in subsequent media jobs. Finally, a joint media outreach effort dealing with university research is being developed by AAAS, the Association of American Universities, and the Scientists' Institute for Public Information. This 18-month program will bring scientists and engineers who are experts on univer- sity research together with a small number {from 8 to 15J of journalists

~4 for hee-~beeling discussions of such issues as the transfer of strategic technology to the Soviets. Ibis survey of media outreach efforts is not intended to be e~baus- dve. Its aim teas been simply to touch upon the activities of some meow engineering organizations as well as some of the more interesting activ- ities of other organizations.

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