UK partnership to engage underserved stakeholders in Eastern Kentucky

Kentucky Geological Survey (KGS) Director William Haneberg and University of Kentucky Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies Assistant Professor Lauren Cagle received one of two Building Capacity for Science Communication Partnership grants recently awarded by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). The title of their project is “Engaging Nontraditional Geoscience Information Stakeholders in Appalachian Kentucky.”

The award, supported by funds from the Rita Allen Foundation and the Kavli Foundation, will support growth of an existing UK partnership to engage traditionally underserved KGS stakeholders who desire reliable and understandable information about environmental issues and natural hazards affecting their lives. The award will facilitate collaborative advancement of both the science and practice of science communication.

This project will expand an existing partnership between KGS and a communication and rhetoric researcher at UK to develop and begin implementing an evidence-based communications strategy for nontraditional stakeholders and underserved groups. Haneberg and Cagle will identify information needs, test science communication and engagement strategies, and develop prototypes with stakeholders such as grassroots groups, homeowners and renters, teachers, small business owners, and emergency managers. The project will support the KGS mission, directly benefit targeted stakeholder groups and contribute to scholarly understanding of public engagement.

“We know many of our traditional stakeholders—professional geologists, engineers, emergency managers and planners—and they know us," Haneberg said. "With this funding, KGS will be able to reach out to nontraditional potential stakeholders who aren’t familiar with our work and don’t know how it can be useful to them. At the same time, we will be learning how to more effectively engage new communities of stakeholders who will likely have different expectations and information needs than our traditional stakeholders.”

“We’re excited about the opportunity to engage in dialogue with people about how geological information can help them and their communities," Cagle said. "Our research will use a wide variety of research methods, including focus groups, asset mapping, user experience testing and surveys. With all of these methods, we’ll be working directly with communities to ensure that our research serves them.”

Because of the breadth of the project and the limited time available for this work, the project’s focus is counties in the Big Sandy Area Development District, which includes Floyd, Johnson, Magoffin, Martin and Pike Counties. The lessons learned from this study will help KGS to more effectively engage other nontraditional stakeholders throughout Kentucky, in both rural and urban areas.

The grant will support Haneberg and Cagle’s work through the end of 2020 and the project will be implemented in five phases. Expected outcomes will serve both KGS and broader science communication research goals. One goal of the project is to determine if an engagement model is relevant for science communication practitioners and researchers who need to understand their stakeholders. A second expected outcome will be to identify opportunities and challenges for communicating effectively with Appalachian stakeholder groups by developing and testing specific communication prototypes.

More information about awards granted through the Building Capacity for Science Communication Partnership Awards program can be found at

The mission of the Kentucky Geological Survey, a research center within the University of Kentucky, is to support sustainable prosperity of the commonwealth, the vitality of its flagship university and the welfare of its people. KGS does this by conducting research and providing unbiased information about geologic resources, environmental issues and natural hazards affecting Kentucky.



Last Modified on 2023-01-05
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