AAAS DoSER To Host Science Communication Activities at Research Institutions

Liz Crocker speaking at the AAAS-DoSER workshop at the April 2018 meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in Austin, TX. | AAAS / Lilah Sloane

The AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion (DoSER) program is pleased to announce partnerships with six institutions across the U.S. —Stanford University, Texas State University, Vanderbilt University, Indiana University, the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, and Howard University — as part of its "Engaging Scientists in the Science and Religion Dialogue" project. These institutions were chosen through a competitive application process by an independent project advisory committee and AAAS staff. They will host workshops and other activities scoped to assist scientists interested in more effective science engagement with the diverse audiences in their spheres of influence.

The Engaging Scientists project helps scientists develop strategies and skillsets for constructive and culturally competent public science engagement, particularly on topics that intersect with faith and religion. Scientific research and its applications impact environments, communities, and individuals. New advances have and will continue to have implications for understanding(s) of what it means to be human, our place in the universe, and our understanding of the world around us. The social and philosophical dimensions of science are also of great interest and concern to society at large.

According to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey, a majority of Americans identify as religious or spiritual. However, many scientists are unclear about how to effectively engage with religious perspectives and worldviews. As a collaboration between DoSER and the AAAS Center for Public Engagement With Science and Technology, the project supports scientists in becoming more effective ambassadors for their research interests, their disciplines, and for science as a whole with a broad and diverse spectrum of publics, and particularly with religious individuals and communities. Project activities include science communication workshops at professional scientific meetings, workshops and activities at selected research university campuses, and other resources for scientists.   

At the selected research institutions, a DoSER workshop will be held on campus for institutionally affiliated scientists, focusing on effective, dialogue-driven engagement strategies for communicating about science in the classroom, in research settings, and with broader publics. The institutions will also host guest speakers to the university community on science engagement and science-faith dialogue, and participate in an award competition to recognize science engagement activities by early career and established scientists that involves dialogue with religious communities and institutions.

DoSER staff have been active at a range of scientific society meetings over the past six months, offering both the Engaging Scientists workshop and other contributions to the scientific programming of several professional associations.

At the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in Washington, D.C. (Nov 2017), DoSER organized a Social Issus Roundtable on Engaging Neuroscientists in Dialogue with Religious Communities. The Roundtable was recorded and can be viewed here.

Gregg Davidson and Leandra Swanner presenting at poster symposium on Science Engagement with Faith Communities during the 2017 meeting of the American Geophysical Union in New Orleans, LA.| AAAS / Warren Dennis
  1. At the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in New Orleans, LA (Dec 2017), DoSER organized a poster symposium on Science Engagement with Faith Communities. Presentations focused on dialogue on a range of topics at the intersection of science, faith and culture, including evolution, climate change, and tensions surrounding the construction of telescopes in sacred places for indigenous communities.
  2. At the American Astronomical Society (Jan 2018), DoSER staff hosted Salman Hameed, Director of the Center for the Study of Science in Muslim Societies of Hampshire College as part of a workshop on Astronomy Engagement with Diverse Publics. The remarks were recorded and can be found here. DoSER director and astronomer Jennifer Wiseman also offered remarks.
  3. At the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (Apr 2018), DoSER held a symposium on Biological Anthropology and Dialogue with Diverse Publics. In keeping with anthropological perspectives, the content was framed more broadly than at other society meetings. The presentations by senior scientists, early career scientists, and graduate students examined intersections with science and diverse worldviews (of which religion is often an important part), and the historical and contemporary contexts of scientific activities, particularly those involving underrepresented and marginalized communities in the U.S. One presentation explored the feasibility and impact of crowdfunding scientific research, while another (by DoSER’s own Elizabeth Crocker) explored intersections of science, faith, and culture at the 2017 March for Science in Boston, MA.

To date, the response by workshop attendees has been very positive. As one attendee noted in a post-workshop survey, “We have more in common with our fellow citizens than not. Discussion of finding "common ground" is both helpful and encouraging. Overall, the workshop was well organized, and time seemed to fly.” By comparing pre- and post-workshop responses, we have found that attendees report feeling greater comfort in interaction with religious audiences about science topics and in responding to questions informed by faith beliefs, as well as greater interest in doing more science engagement with religious publics through participation in the workshop. Over 96% of respondents would recommend the workshop to a colleague.

In the summer of 2018, DoSER and the Center for Public Engagement will release Scientists in Civic Life: Promoting a New Dialogue-Based Culture, the first in a booklet series for scientists on constructive science dialogue with diverse publics. This will be followed later in 2018 by an additional booklet focused on engagement with religious individuals and communities. Like the workshop, this resource will include a range of possible strategies for engagement and outline case studies from a range of scientific disciplines.

Finally, the DoSER program has begun recruitment for the DoSER Engaging Scientists Network,, a resource intended to help us link scientists interested in science advocacy and engagement activities with religious institutions and faith communities across the US and worldwide. Scientists and community representatives interested in participating in such activities are encouraged to sign up at the DoSER Engaging Scientists Network website.