Communicating research results in Transylvania II

By Joern Fischer

As I threatened in the last blog post, here is a bit more information on our outreach tour through Central Romania. We’ve got quite a bit of it behind us now, and so it’s possible to reflect a little bit on the outcomes. First, here’s another short video, taken by Hans Hedrich, a local environmental activist and documentary maker. And below that I’ll reflect a bit on our outreach tour.

Here are some of my main reflections:

  • The time investment was substantial, but absolutely worth it. We had to prepare 15 posters, in two languages we don’t all speak, we wrote a booklet, we had to come up with a schedule, hire a van, organise pavillions, get permissions from local mayors …. all of this took a lot of time and energy. I would not recommend for any individual person to ever organise this kind of thing, but we shared the organisation among several different people, and this made it quite manageable. Regarding it being worth it: First, it was very much “team building”, with benefits for our research team as such. Second, there were quite a few villagers who seemed to genuinely appreciate people coming to study their landscapes. So it is not only “right” to give something back to the communities we did our research in, but it has actually been quite satisfying, with some people genuinely interested and feeling they could somehow “use” our results in their lives and roles.
  • Our Romanian colleagues were fantastic! We involved several locals in our outreach tour, and they did a wonderful job talking to anyone and everyone — from a TV station to the elderly, from priests to kindergarden kids. Thanks again to you guys!
  • Our biggest outreach “success” was in places that one may not have thought. I found it very interesting to observe where our work inspired enthusiasm — where the scenarios really made people think — versus where it was received in a rather luke warm way. Perhaps surprisingly, some of the actors supposedly most interested in sustainable development in the region did not seem overly interested in our findings, nor moved by our communication approach; while some “random” people (such as nascent leaders in local communities) were very enthusiastic and inspired. This goes to show, I think, that just sticking with the “official” important actors misses a lot of second-row change agents, who may not be the frontline of sustainable development, but who might be quite important in specific places or neighbourhoods.
  • We need more of this! While we can’t tour our study area forever, we hope that those locals interested in engaging will continue to discuss the future of Transylvania. To help with this, we have a (fairly active) facebook page (mostly in Romanian, and thanks to my PhD students convincing me we needed one), and a website with all our materials, from scientific papers to posters and presentations.
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