Throughout its 13-year history, the AAAS Communicating Science Workshop program has offered workshops to scientists and engineers via their institutions. Institutions (which have ranged from universities to federal agencies and the military to professional societies) pay for AAAS facilitators to come to them and train a group of usually 20-50 scientists and engineers -- whether graduate students, professors, research scientists or applied scientists -- in best practices for science communication and public engagement.
However, when the AAAS Center for Public Engagement began offering virtual instead of in-person workshops amid the COVID-19 pandemic (this transition is described in a blog post from workshop facilitator Gemima Philippe), the program saw an opportunity to begin offering a new option: individuals can now sign up for a “AAAS-hosted” three-hour workshop at the cost of $125 per person. AAAS is currently offering these workshops once a month for the first 30 people who register. Philippe facilitated the first such workshop on January 13, and the next two are scheduled for February 25 (focused on science communication and public engagement fundamentals) and March 16 (policy engagement).
“Usually our workshops are comprised of peers from the same institution, like a professional society or university department,” said Philippe. “In our AAAS-hosted workshops, we have a group of strangers whose only commonality is their interest in public engagement with science. But after a few discussion prompts, participants were encouraging each other and providing feedback like old friends.”
AAAS intends to continue offering virtual workshop options for both individuals and institutions after it is safe to resume in-person workshops again.
“We’re excited to be offering workshops to individuals, not only to help them improve their science communication and public engagement planning skills but also to assist them in finding a network of like-minded peers,” said Mary Catherine Longshore, who manages the workshops program. “Individuals no longer have to rely on their institutions to host a workshop for them to participate in AAAS training.”
The introductory-level, three-hour Science Communication and Public Engagement Fundamentals module next being offered on February 25 discusses the latest science communication research and basic best practices for engaging with the public. The facilitator will introduce participants to the AAAS Framework for Public Engagement, which can help them develop individual plans that include a public engagement goal and ways to engage a relevant audience with tailored messages. Through instruction, discussion, self-reflection and structured exercises that emphasize two-way dialogue, participants brainstorm an engagement scenario and identify next steps to put their plans into action.
The program’s other workshop modules are: Engaging the Public with Social Media, Engaging the Media, Engaging Policymakers, Engaging People of Faith (developed in collaboration with the AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion), and its newest module, Engaging Communities in Climate Conversations. Short, 45-minute versions of the Climate Conversations workshop and the Engaging People of Faith workshop will be offered as part of the virtual 2021 AAAS Annual Meeting in February and are open to anyone through the free public events pass.