Background/Question/Methods Public engagement with science is meant to ensure that scientists interact with society in ways that foster both support for science and a concomitant opportunity for scientists to integrate societal priorities and insights into research choices. The data presented comes from interviews and surveys with scientists affiliated with at two Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites in the U.S. Northeast that focused. Scientists at the two sites—Hubbard Brook and Harvard Forest—took part in three rounds of data collection between 2017 and 2020 on how these scientists perceive public engagement. Building on the theory of planned behavior, questions partly focused on scientists’ willingness to engage as a function of their attitudes towards participation (i.e., perceived likelihood of enjoyment, satisfaction), their perceptions of engagement norms, and their sense of engagement self-efficacy. Questions also emphasized understanding scientists’ priority goals for engagement (e.g., contributing to policy discussion) and the specific objectives they believed were needed to achieve these goals (e.g., sharing knowledge, fostering excitement, demonstrating trustworthiness). As the project progressed, increased emphasis was put on questions about scientists’ views about professional communicators as a function of their perceptions of these communicators.
Results/Conclusions In general, the surveys found little change in views about engagement, priority goals, or priority objectives despite activities at both sites aimed at fostering increased attention to dialogue with stakeholders. Nevertheless, the surveys and interviews at both sites indicated that scientists already had positive views about most aspects of engagement at the start of the project. A key early finding, in this regard, was that the scientists did not seem to want additional training but instead looked to their leadership teams and professional communicators to guide efforts on communication while soliciting participation from scientists, where needed and appropriate. Overall, the research suggests that those who want to increase the quality of communication need to put more focus on the ‘infrastructure’ of science communication rather than the individual views of scientists.