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Funding agencies, specifically the National Science Foundation (NSF), are placing particular emphasis on the societal relevance and broader applications of scientific research, otherwise known as Broader Impacts (BIs). Scientists are required to address the BIs merit review criterion in their research proposals or they will not get funded. However, many scientists perceive the BIs criterion to be confusing and daunting, and developing activities to meet these requirements is often not within their expertise. One way to reach a vast audience and make scientific research more relevant and compelling to the broader public might be through documentary film. This study explores the relationship between film, science communication, and BIs.
To address this relationship, this study includes: 1) an analysis of existing interview data on scientists’ perceptions of and experiences with BIs and 2) an in-depth case study of a small sample of scientists, some of whom were filmed conducting research on glacier melting in Greenland. Data were analyzed using thematic content analysis related to how the filmmaking process (1) influenced the scientists’ communication of current research and (2) helped the scientists both develop and meet their BIs goals. Findings from this study indicate that being filmed throughout the research process had minimal impact on the scientists’ communication of their work. However, partnering with a filmmaker compelled these scientists to develop clearer and more compelling messages about the societal relevance of their research. This research contributes to the understanding of what might drive scientists to develop BIs goals and engage with filmmakers or education and outreach specialists in order to meet their goals.
Available online from the National Sea Grant Library.