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Scientific community/Science communication

Kate Brauman has long been troubled by how hard it is to communicate research findings and other updates back to the communities she and her colleagues engage with during their fieldwork. She wanted to tackle this challenge as a part of her Leshner Leadership Institute for Public Engagement fellowship. Brauman points to an often-significant divide between what communities expect, and what researchers can actually provide, especially when it comes to the timeframes involved in research. She notes that the last paper she wrote related to her dissertation was published five years after her fieldwork ended. “It seemed crazy to share it back five years later,” she says, but in the meantime, people were left to wonder what happened with the project they had contributed to, and potentially feel somewhat negatively about it as a result.  

Although social media was just one of the activities outlined in her public engagement plan for the year, Sarah Feakins found this to be an increasingly useful forum for direct communication. “Media coverage and newsworthy research ebbs and flows, but general public commentary on research progress is where there’s a consistent platform for scientists who want to engage in the public square,” she says. Over the course of her 2018-19 AAAS Leshner Leadership Institute Public Engagement Fellowship, Feakins made an effort to communicate more consistently with the public via Twitter and in so doing increased her Twitter followers from 600 to more than 1,000, which has been shown to be a threshold where scientists begin to reach non-scientists in their audiences.

The Leshner Leadership Institute brought together a diverse group of 10 scientists for an intensive training in science communication strategies – and immediately put their skills to the test.

Everyone eats. Which means food is perhaps one of the most universally-meaningful topics out there. Despite this fact, crop and agricultural scientists still struggle to connect their work with the public, says Mikey Kantar, an assistant professor of tropical plant and soil sciences at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, and a 2018-19 AAAS Leshner Public Engagement Fellow. So when Kantar heard about a call for breakout sessions at the 2019 AAAS Communicating Science Seminar, he decided to brainstorm with two colleagues, Ari Novy and Colin Khoury, about how their respective fields could do better. Instead of discussing an existing science communication effort, they came up with an idea for a new project and then implemented it prior to coming to Washington, DC and sharing it at their breakout session.

On Friday June 28 at 12 PM EDT, join Michael Kantar from the University of Hawaii as he describes a novel science communication project involving collaborative creation of infographics.

Brooke Smith, the Kavli Foundation’s Director of Public Engagement with Science, will lead a discussion of the ‘Support Systems for Scientists’ Engagement and Communication” initiative led by the Kavli, Rita Allen, Packard and Moore Foundations. This is a great opportunity to learn what was discussed, hear about next steps, and contribute to further development of ideas to strengthen the work we all do to support scientists’ engagement, and science’s connection with society.

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