Communications, outreach and citizen science: spreading the word about invasive alien species.
Outreach is an important element of scientific communication and a prescribed element of many projects, but few scientists have training in communications. This paper describes the outreach element of a project on invasive alien species. A communications plan was drawn up to streamline communications efforts, allowing us to take advantage of unanticipated opportunities to engage with the public, while still maintaining the desired focus, using minimal resources. Here, we use two simple metrics - "passive reach" and "interactions" - to measure the extent and the intensity of communications, and we also look at the advantages and limitations provided by different media. Broadcast media and social media have the capacity to reach a wide audience, but have a low percentage of interaction. Workshops and citizen science events tend to reach a much smaller audience, but generate greater levels of engagement. Understanding these dynamics is important in designing an effective communications plan, which uses the minimum number of resources to generate maximum impact. Building the credibility of the researcher or the project means that your research will reach a wider audience, and your message is more likely to have an impact.