What Is Outreach?

The National Science Foundation (NSF) requires grantees to demonstrate broader impacts in an effort to ensure the NSF's 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 Advanced Technological Education (ATE) grant. Fortunately, outreach and dissemination is not only a requirement, but also likely to support your project's 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.

On this site, we provide an "Outreach Kit" that includes paths for dissemination. You'll find ideas for outreach and dissemination in the Planning, Social Media, and Communications Guides, as well as the section for additional Resources at the end.

Your organization's mission and available resources will guide your individual outreach plan, but all ATE projects and centers share three basic goals:

  • Promote the project or center's research findings and work to peer groups, educators, students, and the public at large.
  • Share and grow the excitement of science and technology with the project or center's institution's body of administrators, faculty, and students, as well as industries and other key stakeholders.
  • Stimulate discussions and interest in important educational and technological issues addressed or introduced by the project or center.

Now that you're ready to show broader impacts, where do you begin? Get started with the ATE Outreach Kit, including guides, tips, tools, and templates.

Getting Started

The ATE Central Outreach Kit is organized into four parts:

  • The Planning Guide helps your project or center define, plan, and execute outreach goals. The guide includes project management and assessment tools.
  • The Social Media Guide provides a thorough introduction to some types of social media, how your project or center can make use of social media, and how you can use social media for your own professional development. In addition, we've collected a list of the ATE Centers and Projects that are using social media, along with some ATE partners and collaborators, so that you can easily find examples of best practices, professional development, and staying in touch with the ATE community.
  • The Communications Guide 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 media outlets, how to build your own Media Kit, and which outlets may be best suited to your project or center—including outlets within the ATE community and NSF.
  • The Resource Appendix collects PDFs of important documents from throughout the Outreach Kit as well as links to best practices within NSF and the ATE community, free and low-cost outreach tools, helpful links, and suggested reading.