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Scientific community/Science communication

Sometimes the research that isn’t most interesting to scientists turns out to be the most important. And Emory University chemistry professor and AAAS 2019-20 Leshner Public Engagement Fellow Bill Wuest is fine with that. His research on soaps and disinfectants, which he says, in terms of “hardcore chemistry, just isn’t that exciting,” has been in high demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wuest was ready to be a resource to the public in part because of the connections and preparation the AAAS fellowship offered him.

This past semester, Leia Stirling’s students at the University of Michigan developed a wide array of outreach activities for K-12 students using wearable sensors that can measure people’s motion similar to a Fitbit or Apple Watch. She asked her students to define the specific age group they were targeting, what learning objectives they were trying to achieve, and how they would assess whether they achieved their outreach goals. Some teams focused on younger kids, developing activities to describe body motions, while other teams focused on older students with topics like the physics of motion or how to represent rotations. One group created a hands-on visualization using a Rubik’s cube to describe rotations around three-dimensional axes.

At the AAAS EPI Center’s request, computer scientists and election experts met with Delaware’s State Election Commissioner Anthony Albence to discuss concerns related to the insecurity of the electronic systems being used for absentee voting.

Christopher Lynn didn’t start out his career in anthropology intending to study tattooing. But in 2016 when his first study on tattooing and possible positive effects on immune systems went viral, he realized there was a lot of public interest in “the science under the hood of tattooing.” Lynn says that “public engagement has built interest in the research that I do… and where their [the public’s] interests lie informs how I do research and my instincts about teaching and what appeals to people.”

Samira Kiani’s interest in art and storytelling began at a young age, when she was growing up in Iran. After starting her own lab at Arizona State University working on CRISPR gene editing technology, she saw an opportunity to connect science with these interests. There were “all these serious ethical debates, and I thought, ‘What if I made a film about this?’” Kiani says, a 2019-20 AAAS Leshner Public Engagement Fellow. Three years later, she is close to that goal, and has learned a lot about the challenges of filmmaking. Despite it being a “second full-time job,” she loves it, and her institutions (she is now an associate professor in the department of pathology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine) have been very supportive.

In a “Bioethics and Public Policy” interview he conducted for the Future Directions podcast in October 2019, Aaron Levine described what he does as a bioethicist. At its core, it involves “thinking about ethical issues in the life sciences and healthcare.” As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, such issues have been frequently in the news related to triaging – or prioritizing – patients (and Levine recently published an op-ed in the Georgia Health News on the state’s COVID-19 data reporting issues). His focus typically is on research ethics, asking questions like, “With the conduct of stem cell research: what is appropriate, acceptable, good research, versus what might be more problematic research? How should policymakers oversee research? What impact do policies have on the conduct of science and the careers of scientists?”

Join us for the next #SciEngage session on Friday, June 19 at 12PM ET.

One lesson Jin Kim Montclare took from her training as a AAAS Leshner Public Engagement Fellow is the need to connect with people over commonalities. “Even with all this information, people do not necessarily act on evidence to make policies, for example. I can make the most eloquent argument, and it’s still hard to convince people. A lot of it is trying to figure out ways to say, ‘You and I are the same. We are no different from each other.’”

How might climate change affect infectious disease? This Facebook Live, on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and amid the COVID-19 global pandemic, will discuss this and related questions affecting us all, such as how our interactions with the environment may increase the risk of vector-borne diseases.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has selected its 2020 Mass Media Science & Engineering Fellows, 28 young scientists who will head to newsrooms around the country this summer for ten weeks of hands-on science reporting. The program places undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate level scientists, engineers, and mathematicians at media organizations where they write stories for radio and television, newspapers, and magazines.