ATE 101: Outreach

The National Science Foundation (NSF) requires that grantees demonstrate broader impacts as part of its mission “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense; and for other purposes.” This means that an outreach and dissemination plan is a critical tool for fulfilling the requirements and goals of your ATE grant. Fortunately, effective outreach and dissemination is also likely to help support your project’s ultimate success and sustainability.

In educational communities like the ATE program, the terms "outreach" and "dissemination" are often used interchangeably to describe activity that brings the experiences, knowledge, expertise, and information of your ATE project or center to a wider audience. The terms cover similar ground: outreach is the effort to connect with or to extend a benefit to a wider population; dissemination is the broadcast, circulation, or spread of information. But in actual use, they're a bit different: outreach implies audience engagement or a two-way communication between sender to receiver, while dissemination is a more one-way communication from sender to receiver. In practice, outreach and dissemination can take many forms, such as public talks, lab visits/tours, school or conference presentations, white papers, workshops, and more. The most effective plans incorporate several forms: a white paper that coincides with a press release and a conference presentation, for example.

Your organization’s mission and available resources will guide much of your decision making in creating an outreach plan, of course, but all ATE projects and centers share the same basic goals:

  • To promote research findings and work to peer groups, educators, students, and the public at large.
  • To generate excitement about science and technology within the project or center’s body of administrators, faculty, and students, as well as industries and other key stakeholders.
  • To stimulate discussions about and interest in important educational and technological issues.

ATE Central Outreach Kit

In order to help your project or center develop an outreach plan, ATE Central has created an Outreach Kit. Here you’ll find a variety of ideas for outreach and dissemination in the Planning, Social Media, and Communications Guides. The Outreach Resources section at the end will direct you to some best practices within the NSF and ATE program, outline how to get started in the ATE community, and much more. If you’re ready to show broader impacts, then get started with the ATE Outreach Kit, and put the guides, tips, tools, and templates to use. What follows is a brief overview of what you’ll find in the Outreach Kit.

Planning Guide
This section of the ATE Central Outreach Kit will show you, step-by-step, how your project or center can define, plan, and execute your outreach and dissemination needs. It includes project management and assessment tool(s).

Social Media Guide and Directory
This section of the ATE Central Outreach Kit provides a thorough introduction to several types of social media, and how you can use them to support your project or center's or your own professional development. In addition, we’ve collected a list of all the ATE centers and projects that are using social media, along with some ATE partners and collaborators, so you can easily find them for best practices, professional development, and staying in touch with the ATE community.

Communications Guide
This section of the ATE Central Outreach Kit provides an overview of how to develop your project or center’s outreach messages, how to pitch your project or center (and what you do) to various types of media outlets (large and small), how to build your own Media Kit, and an explanation of which outlets maybe be best suited for your project or center to use for dissemination and outreach – including outlets within the ATE community and NSF.

Further Resources
Here you will find links to best practices within NSF and the ATE community and other Outreach Kits that will help you design your own plan. 

ATE Central Tip: Outreach is a key component of any ATE program’s overall commitment to the education of science and engineering technicians, and the scope of your project or center should guide your organization’s outreach efforts.

Outreach Resources