Climate Change Scientists Announced as First Leshner Leadership Institute Public Engagement Fellows at AAAS

Fellows to focus on climate change issues in first year of program
The first 15 fellows of the Leshner Leadership Institute for Public Engagement at AAAS | AAAS

Days after the landmark Paris climate-change agreement, AAAS is announcing the first fellows of the Leshner Leadership Institute for Public Engagement with Science. All are climate scientists with an interest in promoting dialogue between science and society.

The first cohort of 15 fellows will be recognized during the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting in San Francisco on 16 December.

“AAAS is encouraged by the interest in this new Public Engagement Fellowship opportunity. The 15 Fellows selected, and the many others who applied, demonstrate clear commitment in the climate science community to engage the public on this critical issue,” said Tiffany Lohwater, Director of Meetings and Public Engagement at AAAS. “The fellowship program is focusing on climate with its first scientist cohort, building on the long-standing commitment of AAAS to science communication and public engagement.”

During their fellowship year, the Leshner fellows will plan and implement public engagement activities with assistance from AAAS. They will also work to promote public engagement within their institutions and professional communities. The first cohort will focus on climate change, while subsequent fellows will focus on other areas of science.

As director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, fellow Jessica Hellmann works to communicate with  decision makers and the public. She said the Leshner fellowship is an opportunity to practice those communication skills and strategize in a more thoughtful way.

“We’re here to help understand the world better and help make our human lives better. We can’t just sit in the ivory tower and achieve that broader goal. It’s about fostering the bridge between science and society,” Hellmann said.

In June, the Leshner fellows will convene at AAAS headquarters in Washington, DC for a week of public engagement and science communication training, networking and plan development.

“My motivation in the sciences was always to help science be useful in terms of informing the public and policy. I’ve always wanted to see practical benefits of the work I’m doing but you can’t publish research and hope people pick it up and use it. You have to engage people,” said fellow Benjamin Preston, deputy director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Climate Change Science Institute.

The Leshner Leadership Institute was established in 2015 with support from more than 130 philanthropic gifts. It is managed by the AAAS Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology, established by former AAAS Chief Executive Officer Alan I. Leshner in 2004.