Outreach projects are expected of researchers by many funding groups, but there are other reasons to get involved, writes Dave Hone, a University of Bristol researcher at the Lost Worlds blog, including as a way for researchers to publicize their work or to present real data to the public.
Hone notes that studies that are covered by the media tend to become more highly cited, so that could, in turn, help researchers' careers. In addition, he says that discussing his work with a number of different audiences and in different formats has helped him. "I think my ability as a lecturer and my ability to write scientific papers has improved in part because of the outreach work I do," he says.
And then that outreach can have an effect on others. "It sounds horribly trite to say that this kind of thing inspires the next generation of scientists, but it really seems to be true," Hone adds. "Feedback I've had from students, schoolchildren, teachers, parents and others all point to the outreach efforts of various academics having a genuinely positive effect on numerous young people."