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Of course, public attention to your work will not get you a government grant; only a successful peer review of your proposal will do that. However, creating a lay-level communication plan can help that peer review. For example, in its "Broader Impacts Review Criterion" for reviewing proposals, NSF asks "Will the results be disseminated broadly to enhance scientific and technological understanding?" Recognizing the power of Internet communications, NSF has broadened the definition of such disseminations beyond what most scientists understand, says Jeff Nesbit, director of NSF's Office of Legislative and Public Affairs.

"Most researchers choose things that they know have worked in the past," says Nesbit. These projects usually consist of traditional educational outreach such as developing classroom materials. However, says Nesbit, "The review committees are now starting to look for the more innovative and creative ways to broaden the reach of your research, and one of the easiest ways is mass communications such as podcasts and videos."

Lay-level communications can also "raise all the research boats"—helping increase research funding by enlisting advocates for your field, says Carol Rogers, University of Maryland journalism lecturer."In a world where financial resources to fund research are finite, the research that is deemed to be the most significant is less likely to be on the chopping block than research that doesn't have a group of stakeholders, "says Rogers. She says that "there are studies that show a correlation between visibility of research and research funding."

To be clear, greater public understanding of science does not necessarily lead to greater research funding, asserts Daniel Greenberg in his book Science, Money, and Politics. Greenberg notes that no data support a link between public understanding of science and support for science. He calls such a link "a seemingly sensible but fallacious conviction—namely that public understanding is an indispensable ingredient of public support of science." However, educating legislators can help increase funding, so NSF, NIH, and other funding agencies and advocacy groups highly prize news releases and other lay-level communications as tools in lobbying for research budgets with Congress. Chapter 19 of Explaining Research covers how you can use your research communications most effectively to persuade legislators.

(Next: You Face a New Era of Multimedia Scientific Publication)