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Communicating and engaging with Alaska's diverse and unique marine communities in meaningful and purposeful ways has and continues to be a priority for NPRB and the research we support.
the village of Barrow, Alaska

Outreach &

Communicating science and producing effective, meaningful outreach products in Alaska and those that share North Pacific waters can be challenging but critical for successful science. Since 2002, the North Pacific Research Board (NPRB) has emphasised the importance of outreach, science communication, and engagement with our marine communities in each of our research programs. NPRB maintains its reputation of recognizing the importance of outreach and engagement for Alaska’s diverse marine research community.

Engaging With Our Marine Communities

Communicating scientific results, developing meaningful and effective outreach products, and engaging with people about marine science is not easy—especially in Alaska. Add the state’s geographic size, its complex socio-economic factors, unique demographics and cultural values and science communication as a whole can be that much more complex than other U.S. states.

The North Pacific Research Board (NPRB) understands many of these challenges when it comes to communicating science to our diverse marine communities. Since 2002, NPRB has placed a major emphasis in outreach and engagement within each of our research programs. From forming special Local and Traditional Knowledge Committees in our early years to the current Advisory Panel and Human Dimensions Working Group, NPRB constantly adapts to better foster inclusivity among Alaska’s marine communities. The Board offers dedicated funding to support outreach and engagement efforts while also requiring those that receive funding have specific engagement strategies to communicate science. Because outreach and engagement continues to evolve as access and technology advances, so too has NPRB remained highly adaptable and flexible in offering funding opportunities and services.

There are four large marine communities that NPRB concentrates its own outreach and engagement. When principal investigators submit outreach proposals or engagement strategies, we encourage them to consider these as well.

Science & Research Community

NPRB engages with the scientific community at many different levels—from funding support to peer-review and much more. The science community includes academia, federal and state agencies, NGOs, and early-career scientists.

Marine Policy & Resource Managers

Central to NPRB’s mission is to address pressing fisheries management issues. Policy makers and managers make informed decisions using NPRB-supported science and program management.

Alaskan Coastal Communities

The marine ecosystems of Alaska connect our coastal communities with shared resources. Commercial, recreational, sport, and subsistence fishing all play major socio-economic roles in Alaska’s coastal communities.

Formal & Informal Education

Inspiring future Alaskan marine scientists and better informing the public at large about the importance of Alaska’s marine ecosystems and pressing fisheries management issues.

Engagement vs. outreach

Words such as engagement, science communication, broader impacts, outreach, and public understanding of science are terms used interchangeably in the scientific community—even within the science communication field. But do these terms mean the same thing, and do our marine communities differentiate between them?

NPRB considers engagement and outreach as two distinct nodes of communication that aide in the overall success of delivering scientific information. This differentiation between outreach and engagement stems from other institutionally adopted models in academia, specifically from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Public Engagement approach and the Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE). Started in the U.K. and adopted by the AAAS in 2003, public engagement of science (PES) presents a mutual exchange and sharing of information between the interested public and science. It is a model that aims to improve public perception and attitudes towards science. This model works especially well in Alaska as engagement and outreach can look very differently geographically and socio-economically as it relates to different interest groups, stakeholders, and coastal communities.


The North Pacific Research Board and its Advisory Panel define public engagement as a meaningful, mutually-beneficial exchange and sharing of knowledge between the scientific community and public. The use of public refers to any group of people with common or similar interests, including NPRB or other marine-related communities. Engagement is a two-way approach towards science communication with both parties. NPRB considers engagement as an important part of the scientific process and impacts the overall success of research projects.


Outreach provides a product or service intended for consistent, meaningful impact for a target audience or stakeholder group. Outreach is intended for a specific group while engagement is an exchange with multiple groups.

In 2017, the NPRB Advisory Panel expanded outreach criteria to promote and incorporate awareness, foster transparency, and convey utility to stakeholders and target audiences.

Incorporating Both At NPRB

Core Program
Engagement Strategy

Outreach and engagement among stakeholders and/or target audiences is expected of all proposals, regardless of the type of study. Emphasis should be placed on the incorporation of clear, project-appropriate methods of communication and participation and/or engagement. Innovative approaches to the inclusion of local and/or traditional knowledge, communities, and/or stakeholders in project planning is encouraged. Applicants should identify which groups were involved and at which stage in the project. Dissemination of results and their utility to stakeholders must be clearly defined. Proposals for research engaging or impacting Alaskan communities are encouraged to include a letter of support from the appropriate local or tribal governing bodies at the time of submission.



Request for Proposals

Research proposals funded through the Core Program are invited to apply for up to $20,000 in a separate Outreach sub-award, independent of the Core-funded engagement strategy. The Outreach Request For Proposal (RFP) is released each spring and modified in the fall for updated deadlines. Outreach subwards are available only to Core-funded projects in the same calendar year. NPRB recognizes that science, outreach, and engagement are distinctly different initiatives. The Outreach subward is not restricted to the lead organization of the successful Core research proposal. This can allow scientists to do what they do best, and outreach and engagement professionals to theirs. NPRB encourages creative, appropriate outreach plans that provide value to stakeholders and target audiences. With each call for proposals, NPRB challenges investigators to be creative, think about levels of consistent engagement, and develop attainable goals for assessment when building education and outreach plans.

best practices for outreach & engagement

Just as the scientific world continues to evolve and change with new applications and discoveries, so too does science communication that accompanies it. Technological advancements and internet access have changed the way we engage with our diverse marine communities. But in Alaska, however, how we engage, the type of outreach delivery, and certain socioeconomic factors all play a role for effective and successful outreach and engagement. Understanding the different nuances to outreach and engagement as it applies to Alaska and our marine communities will help develop stronger engagement strategies and outreach deliverables. 

In most urban areas in Alaska, internet access, public education, and community resources are similar to other states in the U.S. However, should engagement and outreach activities extend into Alaska’s coastal communities, there are additional considerations that one must factor when developing appropriate strategies and deliverables. Internet accessibility, geographic location, appropriate tribal permissions, understanding local and traditional knowledge, content delivery, costs, expectations, and working with indigenous communities are just several examples of factors that must be explored prior to developing outreach and engagement activities. NPRB has identified several best practices worth noting while also acknowledging that this field is constantly changing. The content below is not exhaustive, and NPRB strongly encourages the scientific community to explore their own institutional channels or mechanisms for further outreach and engagement guidance for Alaska. Additional considerations specific to Alaska coastal communities can be found here.

Identify Your Audience

The first step is to determine the intended audience(s). Who do you want to engage with or develop outreach deliverables for? There may be opportunities to reach multiple audiences, but understand that could increase costs, timing, and other logistics. Communicate directly with these groups and listen to what outreach and engagement initiatives they would like to see. 


Communicate early and often with with your audience, especially for engagement strategies involving Alaskan coastal communities. Establishing relationships and long-term connections will only help develop stronger exchanges and meaningful interactions between investigators and community members. Understand the approval processes in place for engagement at the tribal, village corporation, and regional non-profit organizational levels. Additionally, be mindful of communication during subsistence harvest periods.


Innovation and creativity are highly encouraged. Keep in mind, however, that you should develop content that you think your audience(s) might want or need, not necessarily what you want to produce. Investigators looking to submit outreach proposals or engagement strategies that include fact sheets and webpages should exercise caution. NPRB does not consider these products to be standalone products for effective outreach. When working with educators, plan accordingly to incorporate state/national education standards and working within current curricula mandates.  

Production & Value

Understanding the costs associated with outreach or engagement is also important. Investigators must account for development time, travel, in-kind contributions, direct and indirect costs, and production costs that include, design (graphic/web), media, materials, printing, and shipping. Include engagement and outreach costs in both the engagement strategy and outreach proposals.

Leverage Resources

Effective outreach and engagement requires time, cost, and the proper skill sets in science communication.  While principal investigators may opt to conduct their own outreach and engagement initiatives, there may be other options to explore. There may be in-kind support, institutional staff, contractual services, or even hiring local community members to handle the specific science communication needs. Leverage resources when applicable to ensure both science and science communication expectations can be accomplished.

Determine Scale

Effective and meaningful engagement and outreach strategies come in all different scales and scopes. In the planning process, determine the level of scale for the engagement and/or outreach initiatives. By doing so at the onset of the process, more realistic expectations of logistics such as timelines, cost, and milestones can be actualized. Understand however, that building in flexibility to accommodate changes to strategies or projects would be conducive, especially when traveling to remote coastal communities when travel cost/time can fluctuate drastically depending upon weather.

Mutual Benefit

Consider the mutual benefits of outreach and engagement initiatives. Whether it is including indigenous and local knowledge perspectives in your research, building community capacity and knowledge, hiring local community members (thereby supporting the local economy), or increasing visibility about your science project, there are many reasons to explore outreach and engagement with science proposals. Building stronger relationships with marine communities and fostering greater environmental awareness and scientific literacy are fundamentally intrinsic to outreach and engagement practices.


Assessment & Evaluation

Scientists generally agree that outreach is important to science, but quantifying its value is a challenge. Adding evaluative metrics (e.g., survey info) and establishing attainable goals will help determine the success of your outreach and engagement. For example, if 25 community members attended a meeting related to your project, and the goal was 10, the meeting could be considered a success.

Connect with the right people

With a state as large as Alaska, it is important to know where to find the right people or collaborators for your outreach and engagement activities. Many institutions have their own education, outreach, and engagement staff, but listed below are helpful resources that could lead to future collaborations, destinations for outreach deliverables, and more. 

Alaska Marine Science Centers & Museums
A map of museums across Alaska by Museums Alaska.
Marine Science & Education Organizations
National and local resources dedicated to outreach and engagement.
Tribal & Local Coastal Community Networks
Alaska Native Tribal directories, schools, regional corporations (non-profit organizations), and village corporations.
In the Classroom
National and local resources focusing on informal and formal education at the K-12 and post-secondary levels.

Outreach & Engagement Resources

Science communication is an ever expanding field. NPRB encourages those who are considering developing outreach and engagement activities to browse the resources below. NPRB acknowledges that this list is not exhaustive, may not be applicable to certain audiences, and there are even more exciting and novel outreach ideas out there waiting to be highlighted. Work with your own education, outreach, and engagement staff at the institutional level as well or consider contracting out science communication services to other entities.

Digital Products
Printed Products
Engagement Activities
Educational Ideas
Additional Links
Website Applications

Wordpress, Weebly, Wix, GoDaddy, Squarespace and more have great low cost options to get a website up and running fast and easy--and are mobile ready. Pick a template, link to social media, and create!

Blogging, Vlogging, Podcasting

Static websites offer brand identity and visual presence, but sites that have the capacity for blogging or vlogging (video blogging) allow for audience interaction and dynamic content. For investigators looking to create a virtual space to provide project updates, this is an excellent tool to do so. Podcasting is another way to inform and update audiences while also creating a platform to draw larger audiences.

Digital Storytelling

The personal narrative is an effective way to engage audiences. It is the behind-the-scences content that provides context and understanding. Combined with compelling marine research, and you have an outreach product that can be incredibly valuable. Lambert's book Digital Storytelling: Capturing Lives, Creating Community is a great resources and apps such as Adobe Spark or Steller can get you started right away to create stories.


Now anyone, regardless of where you are or education level, can participate in research. Online portals such as Zooniverse host data for users to help researchers compile, synthesize, and analyze data unlocking new discoveries each day.

Web App Development

Mobile technology is an excellent way to explore outreach ideas. Android and iOS platforms offer ways to increase reach and engagment among select audiences. Check out the SeaScribe app and the Arctic UAV app, two tools that offer quite different user experiences. Apps like Tickle offer e-learning programming solutions for drones. Or try Virtual Reality (VR) applications for VR headsets.

Story Mapping

Tell stories by mapping your research journey. ESRI's tool or the free StoryMap JS offer solutions to visualize on a map where research is being conducted. Add video, audio, images, or supplemental text at each location to help build your story.

Social Media & Video Production

Social Media can be an excellent way to disseminate information. For it to be successful, however, content must be consistently updated, and users must engage with audiences. Using video has become a critical way to drive social media traffic and presence. Also consider video in other capacities such as creating your own YouTube or Vimeo Channel for use in presentations. Outreach funds to purchase small, rugged video equipment or video editing software to create compelling stories about your research. An alternative would be to use video production services such as Kindea Labs or Encounters North.

Pamphlets & Brochures

These are simple forms of outreach that can be effective tools, especially if traveling remotely to coastal communities. Use caution if this is your only form of outreach as the Board may favor expanded outreach initiatives. Also consider contracting services for graphic design for these types of materials.

Infographics & Data Visualization

Infographics provide a visual way to display information and data for print and web productions. Piktochart is one of many free online tools that can be used to develop infographics quickly and easily. Add a graphic designer to create compelling graphics or use the site's built in graphics. Share the infographics on the web and through social media channels.

3D Printing

Bathymetric data, geographic hotspots, marine life, and more now have the ability to be printed in 3D! Looking to provide a model to display of a certain element of a research project? 3D printing can be novel addition to any outreach proposal.

Mobile Kiosk

Interactive kiosks provide a large amount of information in a relatively small footprint—ideal for a traveling or permanent exhibits on a shoestring budget. Using an iPad, develops can download the Kiosk Pro Plus App to display web pages, documents, or media files. Add an enclosure from, and for less than $2,000, you have a great outreach product! Requires internet connectivity. Graphic and web designers can offer more interactivity, but well worth the investment.

Museums & Aquariums

Those seeking to offer outreach resources to general audiences, museums and aquariums in Alaska provide large visitation numbers, especially in the summer months. Work with exhibit and education staff to conceptualize potential exhibitry to describe your research project. Due to fabrication time, cost of materials, and time to develop, these types of outreach deliverables are costly, but have potential to draw a large audience pool.

Children's Book & Coffee Table Book

With online resources such as Blurb, Lulu, Mpix, and more, it is now easier than ever to publish and print books at reasonable cost. Photo books are great outreach deliverables that can be distributed to local communities, for example, that illustrate a project from start to finish.

Board Game

Have a great idea for a board game stemming from your research? This can be a great DIY project for any outreach initiative. Looking to extend the game a bit further? Online tools such as The Game Crafter can assist in the building process and offer resources for better art, game play, and more.

Science As Art

Pair with an artist (painter, photographer, etc.) to develop an interdisciplinary adventure combining science and art. Use art as another medium to help better explain the marine environments off Alaska while adding a narrative component to the science. See Imaging the Arctic and Science on Ice for great examples to model this type of outreach initiative. Art can be interpreted in many ways through dance, photography, painting, Alaska native art, etc.

Scan The Code

QR codes are a novel way to connect printed materials (i.e. posters, exhibits, etc.) with supplemental online information. It provides a way for users to interact and engage with exhibits while still offering additional content. The content is also accessible in mobile and web formats, something with which standalone exhibits cannot compete. Many smartphones already have built in QR code readers eliminating the need for 3rd party applications.

Traveling Exhibit

Traveling exhibits offer the opportunity to share assets across a broader geographical context than permanent exhibits do. These typically are lower cost initiatives, but can be beneficial in reaching audiences outside large demographic areas such as coastal communities.

Citizen Science & Local Research

Community-based participatory research is an excellent way to lower investigator travel cost, increase community engagement, and increase scientific understanding and capacity. Additionally, it has the ability to forge relationships between coastal community members and scientists while also providing valuable data that may not otherwise be collected without community support.

Classroom Engagement

Working with coastal community students can be a rewarding experience for both investigator and students. Should logistics accommodate, it would be ideal to offer more than one opportunity for classroom engagement in rural communities. Contact the appropriate school district during the planning process to seek endorsement, and plan on coordinating with teachers to best incorporate your content in their classrooms. Conducting laboratory experiments, field trips, or assisting with data collection are all interactive options that extend scientific concepts in a fun, educational manner.

Science & Art

Developing a multidisciplinary approach to your outreach or engagement that includes art is a novel approach. A STEAM-based (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) approach offer additional capacity for communities to better understand the science. Hire local artists (photography, video, mixed-media, watercolor, etc.), explore artist-in-residence programs, develop youth logo competitions or fish printing in the classroom are just a few of the many examples. Some even help the local economy too.

Local Media

Local newspaper and radio are still heavily utilized in Alaska's coastal communities. Offer to write an op-ed piece about your upcoming research or conduct an interview/q&a over the air with the local radio station are two great ways to inform community stakeholders. Further media options could include Frontier Scientists, Alaska Fish Radio, and on the national level, Science 360.

Potlachs & Presentations

Offering to host a potlach (with door prizes) can be an effective way to gather community members to a presentation about your research. Potlucks tend to draw large audiences as it is culturally a way for community members to gather and socialize. For these presentations, it is best to have additional information in the form of pamphlets or brochures further describing the research being conducted. Bringing fresh produce might be an added touch!

Contact Local Map Agents

Alaska Sea Grant's Marine Advisory Program offers excellent resources directly in key coastal communities throughout Alaska. They function to help Alaskans wisely use, conserve, and enjoy Alaska's marine and coastal resources.


Providing translations to outreach deliverables such as technical reports, brochures, or pamphlets could be an effective way to engage coastal communities. This can be a costly endeavor as it would require hiring a translator, but by including multiple languages in product development, it demonstrates the appreciation for local traditional knowledge in your research.

Meetings, Events, & Science Fairs

There are many local and regional state science fairs and science community events. Here are a few examples.

Fisheries and Co-mAnagement

This list highlights several fisheries council meetings and co-management meetings important to our marine communities.

Virtual Field Trips

Virtual field trips allow for students to peer into the marine science world without having to leave their desk. They can be as simple as using google earth or story mapping applications to upload images and video during a research project. Or websites like Field Trip Zoom can partner with institutions to provide a more professional product.

Lesson Plan Development

Lesson plan development thematically tailored directly to research projects is one of the more common outreach initiatives that NPRB receives annually. Be sure to include science, national, and statewide educational standards. Find a teacher to assist in development and deployment to ensure proper assessment. Thinking about hosting the lesson plans on your own website? Try hosting lesson plans online where teachers go to get resources such as BrainPop Educators, Teachers.Net,, DigitalWish, iTunes U, and more.


Work with the PolarTREC program or NOAA's Teacher at Sea Program to provide teachers with hands-on research experiences working at sea to bring back to the classroom.

Classroom Connections

Bring your research to the classroom. Help design an experiment based on your research project and conduct it with students. Always contact teachers well in advance to ensure proper planning. Use Google Chat, Skype, the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC) or other virtual communication portals to connect multiple schools.

Additional Resource Planning Links

NPRB’s Outreach Program closely mirrors other funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation with its Broader Impacts requirement. Below, are helpful resources you may consider when planning your education and outreach components into scientific proposals.

  • National Science Foundation’s Broader Impacts
  • The Oceanography Society’s Guide for Education and Public Outreach
  • The National Academy of Science’s Resources for Involving Scientists in Education
  • Developing and Implementing an Effective Public Outreach Program, 2009 EOS Article from the American Geophysical Union
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Education and Public Outreach Help Guide

Alaska’s Coastal Communities

For residents living in Alaskan coastal communities, the ocean retains spiritual, cultural, and subsistence connections that embody a way of life and comprise a wealth of local and traditional ecological knowledge—especially for Alaska Native people. There are over 230 federally recognized Alaska Native entities in the state of Alaska spanning 12 regions and at least 20 distinct indigenous languages. Together, local traditional knowledge and marine research can produce meaningful results, but mutual respect for cultures, knowledge, and ways of life must be firmly established. How to effectively engage and develop meaningful outreach deliverables vary in each Alaskan coastal community. There is no one-stop solution to science communication in these communities. However, the considerations below (NPRB acknowledges that the list below is not intended to be exhaustive) offer some carry-over and can help jumpstart your engagement and outreach needs. Links in the the list provide more detailed guidelines. 

Regional Corporation

Regional Non-Profit Organization

Village Corporation

Tribal Office


Transparency. Science and outreach in coastal communities should be open and planned well in advance. Even if letters of support are not required from certain burough, tribal, and co-management organizations, the Board favors those endorsements. Each coastal region operates differently. Determine the appropriate level of engagement and obtain the proper permissions required for local, tribal, and regional governments and Alaska Native Organizations (ANOs) such as co-management organizations.

Stay Consistent and Engaged. Effective outreach plans keep local communities informed and engaged throughout the project (before, during, and after). Multiple community visits builds consistency, trust, relationships, and also establishes a strong communication network for investigators. Remember—science engagement is of importance to you as the investigator, but the intended recipients may not reflect that same level of priority. People living in coastal communities work, subsist, tend to families, and support their communities at-large; understanding these priorities can also help in managing engagement expectations.

School Importance. In many remote coastal communities, the local school is the communication hub of the community. Delivering presentations or potlucks may require coordinating with the school office to determine best times for these activities. Be sure to establish proper communication channels with local and tribal offices before contacting schools directly.


Cross Cultural Communication. Cultural differences can often affect the success of scientific communication and outreach. Here are two excellent resources (Link 1 | Link 2) for articles, books, and videos about cross cultural communication in Alaska. Workshops are also available. The Alaska Native Knowledge Network also has resources pertaining to Alaska Native knowledge.

Sense of Place. When travelling to remote communities, the sense of home and place can be different from outside perspectives. Home can be an extension beyond a house and include an entire village, camp, land, and ocean backyards. Honoring that connection to place and respecting the entire coastal community experience is very important. Consider bringing additional items as signs of appreciation and gratitude to these communities as many conventionalities are not common in these communities—communicate those intentions in advance.

Subsistence Timing. Good outreach may depend upon the timing of subsistence hunting. If planning on community visits, check with local tribal offices to avoid subsistence conflicts and to coordinate the best timing for outreach. 

Capitalize on Local Media. Local newspaper and radio are excellent sources of delivering content about your research. Radio, social media, and local podcasts via mobile technology may be some of the best ways to deliver scientific communication.

Ways to Improve Science Communication

Communicating about science to different audiences can be challenging, especially when the science is highly specific and technical. Who the audience is will also drive the complexity of the scientific messages. An investigator delivering outreach to primary education and policy management, for example, would most likely create separate communication strategies. Below, are helpful references that will improve scientific communication from writing to displaying graphs to incorporating stories into science.