At NSF's Large Facility Workshop, a New Focus on Communications

Published on May 6, 2019


(Image: Tim Spuck)


The National Science Foundation held its annual Large Facilities Workshop April 2-4, in Austin, TX, at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC). The location allowed for tours of the visualization and supercomputer resources available to NHERI’s DesignSafe-CI and a demonstration of NHERI’s Large-Scale Mobile Shaker truck.

The workshop is a collaborative forum for NSF’s Large Facility (LF) community to share knowledge, promote good practices and address common challenges. This year, the conference launched a new track on Education, Public Outreach (EPO), Branding and Communications. A key goal for NSF is to public increase awareness of NSF and the federal government’s role in funding innovative science and education.

Speakers from NSF discussed new branding requirements, branding that NSF-funded facilities should be implementing across all forms of communication, including web sites, presentations, printed literature and social media. In line with this effort, NHERI and DesignSafe are in the process of updating communications materials to comply with NSF branding guidelines.

During the session on social media, Dr. Cheryl Ann Blain, communications lead for the NHERI Network Coordination Office, reported on the network’s progress in ramping up the social media presence of the 10-facility network. (Be sure to see the current repository of social media handles for the NHERI network on the DesignSafe website.) The session led to engaging discussions among LF communication personnel, who shared successful strategies and novel ideas for engaging the public and underserved communities via social media.

  • For instance, when creating social media content, EF communications should not only consider the platform, but also the target audience and the specific goals of the social media campaign.
  • EF communications should take into account the growing influence of YouTube. Video clips and movies have shown to be powerful ways to share our science message and the diversity of people involved with performing science.
  • Maximum exposure via social media outlets occurs when the science undertaken is related to the people actually conducting the science: researchers and students.
  • Similarly, successful content relays personal stories of scientists, such as scientists tweeting day-to-day research and other activities.
  • Also, posts that pose questions to provoke discussion are some of the more effective ways to reach out and grow influence and visibility in the world of social media.

Officers from the NSF Office of Legislative and Public Affairs highlighted their group’s role in magnifying scientific accomplishments, human interest stories, compelling videos and other content. In fact, NSF has announced that July 2019 will be Natural Hazards Month. This is a huge opportunity for NHERI to publicize what we do and what we have accomplished.

Currently, the NSF communications team is developing a video showcasing NHERI’s accomplishments, which will be disseminated during the month of July. To leverage this great opportunity, the NHERI NCO is working with NHERI facilities to collect and create compelling video materials.

If you or your NHERI facility has important science to share with the world, especially in video format, be sure to contact Cheryl Ann Blain (cheryl.ann.blain@nrlssc.navy.mil) or Dan Zehner (zehner2@purdue.edu).