NAE identifies messages for improving public understanding of engineering

Jun 24, 2008

WASHINGTON -- Encouraging young people to make a difference in the world through an engineering career is more likely to attract them than emphasizing the challenge of math and science skills, says a new report from the National Academy of Engineering that identifies messages for improving public understanding of engineering. The report, CHANGING THE CONVERSATION: MESSAGES FOR IMPROVING PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING OF ENGINEERING, recommends that the engineering community begin using tested messages in a coordinated communications strategy.

The four messages that tested best are:

-- Engineers make a world of difference.
-- Engineers are creative problem-solvers.
-- Engineers help shape the future.
-- Engineering is essential to our health, happiness, and safety.

"Improving public understanding of engineering will enable people to make more informed decisions about technology, encourage students to consider engineering careers, and ultimately sustain the U.S. capacity for technological innovation," said Don Giddens, dean of engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and chair of the committee that wrote the report.

Each year, the engineering community spends hundreds of millions of dollars to increase public understanding of engineering. However, most of these outreach efforts are AD HOC, local in scope, poorly coordinated, and not evaluated for effectiveness. The NAE project represents the first-ever effort to use market research techniques to improve the public image of the engineering profession.

The report presents and discusses findings from qualitative and quantitative research, including an online survey of 3,600 people. In addition to testing the appeal, believability, and relevance of a handful of different messages, the project also collected data on a set of taglines, or slogans. Because African Americans and Hispanics are underrepresented in engineering schools and careers, the survey included large numbers of both groups.

"There are concerns about a possible shortage of engineers in the United States," said Giddens, "and it is clear that the engineering profession needs to attract a more diverse mix of the most capable students."

While less than 15 percent of adults or teens described engineers using the common stereotypes, such as "boring" or "nerdy," the research showed that many students don't enjoy math and science enough to become engineers.

Using the committee's research and expertise in engineering education and communications, the report offers tested messages that reposition engineering as a satisfying profession that involves creative ideas and teamwork -- not just personal benefits and technical skills. It also recommends strategies and tools that the engineering community may use to conduct more effective outreach.

Source: The National Academies

Explore further: New anthology offers comprehensive insight into the life and works of Margaret Thatcher

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

National security vs. online privacy

Nov 07, 2014

One method for safeguarding online anonymity is Tor, "the onion router", whose name comes from its method of adding and stripping away encryption layer by layer as messages pass from one node to another ...

Branson shocked as Virgin spaceship crash kills pilot

Nov 01, 2014

Virgin's pioneering tourist-carrying spacecraft crashed on a test flight in California on Friday, killing a pilot and scattering debris across the desert—and raising questions about the program's future. ...

Recommended for you

James Watson's Nobel Prize to be auctioned

Nov 25, 2014

Missed the chance to bid on Francis Crick's Nobel Prize when it was auctioned off last year for $2.27 million? No worries, you'll have another chance to own a piece of science history on Dec. 4, when James D. Watson's 1962 ...

Engineers develop gift guide for parents

Nov 21, 2014

Faculty and staff in Purdue University's College of Engineering have come up with a holiday gift guide that can help engage children in engineering concepts.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.