Public Understanding of Engineering Is Improving, But Additional Work Needed, Report Says


Fri, June 21, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC, June 21, 2013 —

Messaging for Engineering: From Research to Action details efforts by the engineering community to increase the public’s understanding of engineering through the implementation of research-based messages that were introduced in the 2008 NAE report Changing the Conversation: Messages for Improving the Public Understanding of Engineering (“the CTC report”). The committee that wrote the new report said the CTC report’s impact has fallen short of its potential to galvanize action in the engineering community, and it suggested specific steps that can be taken by major players in the field.

“Highlighting the importance that engineers play in shaping our society’s future is critical to making progress toward the goal of greater public understanding of engineering,” said NAE President Charles M. Vest, who co-chaired the project. “This requires greater effort from engineering programs, professional societies, industry, and others in the engineering community who want to promote a more dynamic image of the profession.”

The report says that propagating a more positive image of engineering will require the work of many individual advocates who spread the CTC messages in one-on-one and group interactions, in addition to work by engineering organizations, which can promote the field through outreach, marketing, and advertising.

“Industries that depend on engineering talent to support development of innovative products and services are well-positioned to spread messages about the creative aspects of engineering and its ability to make a positive difference in the world,” noted Ellen Kullman, chair of the board and chief executive officer of E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. Kullman was the project's other co-chair.

The committee developed an action plan to guide future messaging efforts by the engineering community. The plan includes basic steps all segments of the engineering community should consider and specific steps individual elements of the community should undertake. Tactics in the action plan include making explicit use of the words “engineer” and “engineering,” using CTC messages in all public communications, training employees to use the CTC messages, creating incentives for those who incorporate CTC messages into their work, training volunteers in the use of the messages, and involving engineers in outreach activities. 

The project was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

The mission of NAE is to advance the well-being of the nation by promoting a vibrant engineering profession and by marshalling the expertise and insights of eminent engineers to provide independent advice to the federal government on matters involving engineering and technology.


Randy Atkins
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