Participation in outreach activities by members of the scientific community remains limited. Outreach programs are often produced by a small cadre of dedicated individuals who sacrifice their free time and provide their own resources in order to make their efforts successful. By contrast, many scientists are reluctant to even get involved with outreach efforts, due to unfamiliarity with activity formats, lack of time, or simple disinterest. Worse, a large proportion of scientists simply remain unaware of outreach opportunities taking place in their own backyards.
One of the major detrimental factors limiting the extent of participation by scientists in outreach activities is the level of institutional support. Unfortunately, science outreach is not universally valued by administrative and institutional leadership. Such lack of support can be tied to an institutional disregard of extracurricular service. Of the three main pillars of academic professorship (research, service, teaching), service such as informal outreach remains disproportionally unappreciated, with hiring and promotion decisions for research jobs giving little weight to outreach efforts.
Compounding this difficulty is the highly variable nature of funding for outreach activities from different sources. University budgets are being squeezed, and support for museums, non-profits and other institutions is also being cut back. Though funding for informal education from the private sector is increasing, it is still a small proportion of total charitable giving. At the same time, overall government funding for outreach is decreasing along with the rest of the federal discretionary budget, and attempts to establish outreach requirements in the grant application process have had variable success.
Therefore, the Public Outreach Committee will aim to increase professional support and recognition of the effectiveness of science outreach via the following approaches:
1. Establish professional incentives and recognition for outreach service
2. Work with federal funding agencies to fortify public awareness and training requirements in grant applications
3. Provide outreach resources for ASBMB members