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AAAS Center for Public Engagement celebrates 10 years of Communicating Science workshops

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Georgetown University Communicating Science Workshop
Students participate in a 2016 AAAS Communicating Science workshop at Georgetown University. | Matthew Hamilton, Georgetown University

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology is celebrating 10 years of Communicating Science workshops this spring. The Center offered its inaugural workshop at San Jose State University in California on March 14, 2008, and has facilitated more than 185 workshops for nearly 6,000 scientists and engineers since the program’s launch.

The workshops aim to provide scientists with opportunities to learn, practice and build confidence in the fundamentals of science communication, including defining goals, considering audiences and crafting relevant messages. The workshops emphasize the importance of public engagement, which AAAS defines as intentional, meaningful interactions that provide opportunities for mutual learning between scientists and members of the public.

Tiffany Lohwater, AAAS chief communications officer, initiated the workshops which were initially partially funded by the National Science Foundation and launched the program, working closely with consultant Denise Graveline from idea to pilot stage. Among other contributions, Graveline insisted that scientists should aim to make their audience-centric messages “miniature, memorable and meaningful” – a concept that continues to resonate with workshop participants.

“The workshop provided an excellent reminder that effective communication takes place via engagement (i.e., giving information, listening and feedback) rather than just through providing information."

- 2015 Workshop participant, via anonymous workshop evaluation

Graveline died in early February, but her commitment to improving scientist communication continues to shape those she worked with. “Denise was such an inspiration to me and countless others who benefited from her advice and counsel,” said Lohwater.

“I feel very fortunate to have helped start such a successful program and been part of its development over the last decade,” continued Lohwater. “I’m proud of what AAAS public engagement staff continue to accomplish with each workshop, and look forward to continued growth and impact.”

Today, the Center continues to offer the Communicating Science and Public Engagement Fundamentals workshop module, covering best practices for public engagement, and has developed new workshop modules on Engaging the Public with Social Media and Engaging Policymakers.

“We’ve developed some very fruitful collaborations with researchers in science communication and public engagement, and we regularly review and update our workshops with new research,” said Emily Therese Cloyd, project director for the AAAS Center for Public Engagement. “Evaluation also plays a vital role in our workshops, and feedback from workshop participants helps improve our current workshop offerings and identify topics for future workshop modules.”

Read more about AAAS Communicating Science workshops program:

Author

Mary Catherine Longshore

Program Associate