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AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science

2018 AAAS Early Career Award recipient Johanna Varner accepts her award during the 2018 AAAS Annual Meeting. | Professional Images Photography

The AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science, established in 2010, recognizes early-career scientists and engineers who demonstrate excellence in their contribution to public engagement with science activities. A monetary prize of $5,000, a commemorative plaque, complimentary registration to the AAAS Annual Meeting, and reimbursement for reasonable hotel and travel expenses to attend the AAAS Annual Meeting to receive the prize are given to the recipient.

For the purposes of this award, public engagement activities are defined as the individual’s active participation in efforts to engage with the public on science- and technology-related issues and promote meaningful dialogue between science and society, as highlighted in this video.

The award will be given at the AAAS Annual Meeting.

Visit the awards nomination site from February 15 through August 1, 2018, to nominate a scientist or apply for the 2019 AAAS Early Career Award. Inquiries may be directed to the Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology via email.


  • Candidate must be an individual scientist or engineer. Groups or institutions will not be considered for this award. AAAS employees are ineligible. One scientist or engineer will be chosen to receive the award each year.
  • Candidate must be a scientist or engineer actively conducting research in any scientific discipline (including social sciences and medicine). They may be based in academia, government or industry. Public engagement activities must be above and beyond job responsibilities.
  • Candidate must be “early career” which is defined as an individual who has completed their terminal degree within seven years of the deadline for nominations.
  • Candidate will have demonstrated excellence in his/her contributions to public engagement with science activities, with a focus on interactive dialogue between the individual and a non-scientific, public audience(s).
  • Types of public engagement activities might include: informal science education, public outreach, public policy, and/or science communication activities, such as mass media, public dialogue, radio, TV and film, science cafés, science fairs, and social and online media.


  • Nominations may be made by individuals, universities, government agencies, media, research organizations, and AAAS affiliate organizations. One nominator can nominate multiple candidates.
  • Self-nominations are allowed- a letter of support from someone who can speak to the quality of your public engagement activities is required.
  • Prior nomination does not exclude a candidate from consideration in subsequent years.
  • The selection committee will include distinguished scientists, engineers, and science communicators named by AAAS. Decisions of the committee are final.
  • During the award year, AAAS expects the recipient will continue participating in public engagement with science activities and initiatives.

Required Materials

Materials must be in English.

You will be asked to provide:

  • Name, position, institution, professional address, email, and phone of the candidate
  • Name, position, institution, professional address, email, and phone of the nominator or person writing the letter of support (in the case of self-nominations)
  • Candidate qualifications statement of the public engagement activities that form the basis for the nomination
    • This statement of 500 words should discuss the candidate’s approach to public engagement. It should emphasize the candidate’s public engagement goal(s), intended audience(s), and message(s), as well as the level and type of dialogue achieved with their audiences, evaluation of public engagement work, and examples of how public engagement has affected the candidate’s scientific work. 
    • More information about AAAS’s approach to public engagement is available here.
  • A letter of support from the nominator (a person who can speak to the candidate’s public engagement efforts)
    • This letter should provide more insight into the candidate’s work and discuss their accomplishments and can be written by a colleague, supervisor or participant.
    • Up to two additional letters from different nominators may be submitted (not required).
  • At least two (up to three) representative material samples or other documentation which illustrate or describe the candidate’s public engagement contributions
    • Samples should exhibit the activities discussed in the statement and further contribute to the narrative of the nomination, showing different representations of the breadth of their public engagement.
  • The candidate’s curriculum vitae
    • Limit CV to five pages, with a specific section highlighting public engagement activities distinct from work that is required as part of the candidate’s job.

​​​All materials submitted become the property of AAAS.


Nominations are open from February 15 through August 1, 2018, for the 2019 AAAS Early Career Award. Visit the awards nomination site to nominate a scientist or apply for the award.

Inquiries may be directed to the Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology via email.

2018 Recipient

2018 recipient Johanna Varner

Johanna Varner is an assistant professor of biology at Colorado Mesa University, where she teaches courses for both biology majors and non-majors and studies the response of small rabbit-relatives, called pikas, to environmental change. Varner’s primary public engagement is through citizen science engagement programs, which she views as an opportunity help volunteers appreciate the natural world, consider local consequences of climate change and participate in all aspects of science.

Please view the complete list of past recipients.

AAAS Award for Public Engagement with Science

Nominees no longer considered "early-career" as defined by this award might be eligible for the AAAS Award for Public Engagement with Science.

AAAS Awards

Each year, AAAS recognizes significant contributions to science and the public’s understanding of science. Learn more about these awards and nominate a scientist, engineer, author, journalist or public servant for their outstanding work.