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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 engagement plan.
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|
Since very few end users will read peer-reviewed journal articles or attend professional meetings, outreach must employ different and appropriate vehicles to convey the research findings to end-users in a readily understandable and potentially actionable manner. Many different tools can be used provided there is a clear target audience and a logical outcome from the research effort. In some cases, end-users should be engaged in the proposed work throughout the project through the process of co-production.
Articulating a plan to get this information to end users is a vital part of successful Sea Grant proposals.
The following are all important products of the research process, but they do not qualify as outreach to constituents or specific end users.
A Maryland Sea Grant engagement plan describes how specific end users will be engaged early and learn about research outcomes so that they can use the information when making decisions (e.g., about coastal resources or land use policy). Involvement of the targeted end users during proposal development is important and co-production of research projects with end-users often leads to more targeted, actionable outcomes.
An engagement plan describes what methods and/or products the project team will use/create to work with and communicate results to end users who are likely to benefit from the research. In addition, the plan should predict, within reason, the impact of the research and outreach effort on the relevant end-users. For example:
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 to be considered an effective engagement tool.
An engagement effort should lead to outcomes that can be evaluated as products of the funded project.
Often developing a logic model or employing Theory of Change can prove useful for defining how a project will lead from activities to outcomes. In particular for community co-production proposals, the work should strengthen engagement with end-users to help them to achieve significant outcomes from the research. The research should not be extractive of end-users, but rather empowering for communities and/or end-users.
What are some options for successful outreach efforts? The key to a successful engagement effort is defining a strategy for how specific users can participate, learn about, and/or make use of the results and products of the proposed research.
An engagement 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.