Environmental education: Constraints and potential as seen by sandy beach researchers
Scientists active on sandy beach research were involved in a two-step process to depict the current status, highlighting critical points as well as strengths related to education on sandy beaches performed outside the academic environment. Firstly, an online questionnaire was submitted to the participants at the VIII International Sandy Beaches Symposium. The results were discussed and integrated by experiences at personal and institutional levels brought together by participants at the Symposium during a plenary workshop. Results highlighted a group of researchers engaged in education and outreach activities, willing to establish a dialogue which included the targets of education activities. Scientific literacy was seen as a necessary background for such a dialogue, in which specific gaps related to knowledge about sandy beaches could be addressed and rectified. A long-term vision and the establishment of a continuous path rather than one-off actions (as those related to specific, time-limited projects) was also seen as much needed for the implementation of effective actions. Main constraints preventing researchers from carrying out education activities outside academia were clearly identified as (in order of relevance): lack of recognition in terms of publications; lack of recognition in the academic environment; and lack of time. Considering these outcomes, the ideal dimension to establish effective solutions was identified at the national level. As a first step to counteract the constraints found, it is proposed to: target the collection of publishable data, e.g. basic indicators of success of education and outreach activities; and the use of “outreach” as an additional pillar for personnel evaluation. The provision of literacy principles should finally be the backbone of long-term actions.