The aim of the article is to analyze the use of websites in communication activities and image building of national scientific institutions. One of the reasons for undertaking this subject is the greater attention paid to scientific communication and its link to the need for society involvement in research, that was expressed in the “Rome Declaration on Responsible Research and Innovation in Europe” in 2014. Apart from that, there is an enhanced science mediatization that requires from PR specialists an extra effort to ensure that their messages are not distorted. The subject seems to be vital as there is a growing emphasis on commercialization of scientific research that creates the need to undertake deliberate efforts to popularize scientific discoveries. Moreover, a demographic decline, which more and more touches higher education institutions and forces them to strive for creating well-known brands, contributes to the subject’s importance.
In order to realize the objective, in July 2015, 605 websites of national research institutions were reviewed to determine whether their operators shared contact details to the employee responsible for communication, posted messages informing about current events as well as visual content, used such tools as newsletters, RSS feeds and social media, utilized solutions that facilitate contacts with experts and reprinted materials about themselves published by other medias. The analyzes were performed taking into account the type of each scientific institution (i.e.: a public university, a private university, a research institute or the PAS institute), its size and the empowerment to award scientific degrees.
The results show that relatively few scientific institutions fully exploit the potential of websites in public relations activities. According to anticipation, scientific institutions with a department or at least a single position responsible for communication are more active in this field. Moreover, public higher education institutions conduct the most professional communication. There is no clear regularity between the size of institutions and their activity in the field of communication, except for private universities. However, the greater engagement in communication activities is observed within the institutions authorized to award scientific degrees.
In addition, conducted research, on the one hand, resulted in identification of the most common mistakes committed in website communication, but on the other hand, revealed the examples of websites that performed their communication and image-building functions excellently. Such information may serve as a benchmark for practitioners who would like to assess their websites and correct eventual defects.
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