10 December 2013 Leave a comment
After working for both NGOs and government, Mark Hamann is now a researcher and lecturer at James Cook University in Townsville.
His research interests cross several disciplines but generally relate to marine wildlife ecology, marine and freshwater turtle biology, marine wildlife management, conservation biology, and the impacts of plastic pollution on marine ecosystems.
Most of Mark’s current research projects are conducted with partners from government, industry, NGOs and Indigenous communities. He spends a considerable amount of his time talking about science and science delivery with his collaborators.
Last year, Mark participated in “I’m a Scientist get me out of here” and he was introduced to the world of online science communication.
Mark tweets from @turtlesatJCU.
We already engage all the time. It’s a part of family life, work, and our everyday relationships.
Engagement describes a journey; it is about building a conversation, a friendship, trust and – ultimately – a working relationship.
But why do we need to do it? And how do we, as scientists, engage? Do the ways in which a researcher might engage differ from how we engage with friends and family?
In a professional sense, scientists need to engage across many sectors of society. They need to do this to keep their work relevant, market themselves and their research potential, and create networks that help build a career, another’s career, foster collaborations, or to assist in government decision-making processes.
General engagement models consist of a series of stages that shift the relationship from Information sharing through to Empowerment (Information – Consult – Involve – Collaborate – Empower). With empowerment comes a traditional relationship with shared deliberations, shared goals, and ultimately the shifting of power for making decisions from one party to another. The goal of an engagement exercise might not necessarily be Empowerment, but it is a highly sought-after endpoint in many community-based projects. It is certainly true, for example, in community-based management of natural spaces.
Many people have an intrinsic ability to engage, especially in a public arena, yet struggle in a professional setting. Getting it more right than wrong requires practice, patience, and risk.
In 2001, I had just started a working on a project to set up a sea turtle monitoring project in a remote part of Northern Australia. It was a short, one-year project to collect biological data from turtles so we could fill an important knowledge gap for their management. The challenge for me was that I had never been to an Indigenous community and had little knowledge of how to even begin.