An essential component of Maryland Sea Grant’s mission is to fund research that meets the needs of the many audiences in Maryland whom we serve.
To that end, we require the investigators we fund to develop plans to share their findings with constituencies whom the research may benefit and in ways that help solve problems and advance public understanding.
Here’s a primer about how to do this and what we expect.
All full proposals must include an outreach plan.
What Is “Outreach”?
In their research proposals, principal investigators must articulate and justify the anticipated benefits of the research to be undertaken over short-to-long time scales and to various “end users” of the information or technologies developed.
|Potential End Users|
|Targeted groups within the general public|
Very few end users will read the journal articles or attend professional meetings. Hence, outreach must employ different, appropriate vehicles to convey the information to them in a readily understandable manner. There are many different tools that can be used, provided that there is a clear target audience and a logical outcome from the research effort.
Articulating a plan for this is a vital part of a successful proposal to Maryland Sea Grant.
What Is Not Outreach (for Our Purposes)?
The following are all important products of the research process, but they do not qualify as outreach to constituents or users.
- Undergraduate and graduate education: While we greatly value this, we consider it part of the overall education mission of most research institutions rather than outreach.
- Peer-reviewed journal articles.
- Presentations at scientific meetings.
What Is an Outreach Plan?
A Maryland Sea Grant outreach plan describes how specifically targeted audiences will learn about research outcomes so that they can use the information when making decisions about coastal resources and policy.
An outreach plan describes what types of products you will create to communicate results and how the targeted audiences will get the information.
In addition, the plan should state, within reason, the proposers’ prediction of the impact of their research and outreach effort. For example:
- Will managers be able to make a better decision regarding a specific issue?
- Will a new method to manage a specific problem be developed?
- Will a key group have new tools to address an important issue pertaining to Chesapeake Bay restoration?
A general distribution of information to wide audiences in the general public (e.g., via a website) can be useful but is most likely not sufficient in and of itself.
An outreach effort should lead to outcomes that can be evaluated as products of the funded project.
Outreach Assistance and Examples
What are some options for successful outreach efforts? The key is defining a strategy for ways in which specific users can learn about and make use of the products of your research.
- Engage the Maryland Sea Grant communications team: Sea Grant staff regularly writes and publishes online news articles and our magazine Chesapeake Quarterly.
- Contact Maryland Sea Grant Extension Faculty: Our Extension specialists and leader for education have a variety of expertise and are actively working with many of the groups that are potential beneficiaries of your research. Please note that our Extension staff members have a full schedule, so please be sure to plan ahead and allocate ample time for discussion.
- Serve on or connect with a committee or working group: Some researchers, as part of their research programs or service activities, are directly and actively engaged with stakeholder communities. These groups help to inform the direction of the proposed research and provide a built-in audience for the results, when they become available.
- Partner with industry or NGOs: Some researchers collaborate with environmental consultants or other interested constituencies in the development of research questions and/or the dissemination of pertinent results.
- Involve citizens in research: Incorporate interested volunteers or environmental groups in the collection of data.
An outreach plan that specifically describes plans for interactions with businesses, NGOs, or citizen groups is as valid as one that directly involves Maryland Sea Grant staff, faculty, and products.
If funded, you are obligated to complete the tasks outlined in your outreach plan. Please follow through with all plans and keep all parties engaged abreast of your developments.
If you have questions about our requirements for outreach plans, please contact Dr. Michael Allen, Associate Director for Research and Administration, at firstname.lastname@example.org.