To University leaders:
On behalf of the Leadership in Public Science CFEP cluster, I’m writing to urge you to advocate for the importance of public engagement during the upcoming strategic planning process.
As inheritors of NC State’s land-grant tradition, we know you recognize the importance of lowering barriers between the University and the communities we serve.
NC State is widely recognized for our outstanding Extension service. But other strong public-facing activities across the University may not be as well known. They go by many names: Outreach and Engagement. Public Scholarship. Community-based Research. Science Communication. University Relations. Data Visualization. Citizen Science. Informal Science Education. And of course our cluster’s favorite: Public Science. All serve to connect the expertise of the University with the communities who can benefit from it, fulfilling the UNC mission of “transmit[ing] and apply[ing] knowledge to address the needs of individuals and society.” Building on the foundations provided by these varied programs, NC State has the potential to become the nation’s model of a land grant university for the 21st century.
NC State is also well-positioned to become a leader in comprehensive professional development for graduate students. Education and training programs offered by the Graduate School, University Libraries, University Communications, many departments and of course the Leadership in Public Science cluster are working to ensure that students develop the “soft” skills they will need to thrive in a competitive environment and use their education to meet the world’s grand challenges. These skills will enable and dispose students to communicate their expert knowledge to the colleagues, clients, stakeholders and publics with whom they will work.
Finally, NC State has the capacity to become a center of excellence for research into best practices–and indeed, innovative new practices–for public engagement. Our faculty leads the nation in fields including citizen science, science communication, visual narrative, science policy and informal science education. Our expertise is already on display through our deep partnership with the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. But it has the potential to be leveraged further to promote research-based public outreach and broader impacts programs throughout the University.
The challenges our state will face in the future are great. They require a public that has access to the best science and scientists who understand and are willing to respond to the public’s needs. We are positioned to leverage our historic strengths and new areas of excellence to help lead the state and, by example, lead the country in the practice, teaching, and research of public engagement. To fulfill our potential, we need the vision and commitment that the strategic plan will provide.
We hope you give voice to this perspective in the upcoming retreat, and include the Leadership in Public Science CFEP cluster in the working groups that will carry the process forward.
Thank you for your consideration,
SAS Institute Distinguished Professor of Rhetoric & Technical Communication
Department of Communication
Leadership in Public Science Cluster