Skip to main content

AAAS Launches New Initiative on Local and State Advocacy in the U.S.

Three people standing on the shore of a body of water
AAAS Leshner Leadership Fellow Melissa Kenney, center, is among those contributing to local, state and regional activities that draw on science to develop responses to climate change. | Ariana Sutton-Grier

The American Association for the Advancement of Science launched on Monday an initiative to engage AAAS members as effective advocates for the inclusion of scientific evidence in public policy discussions at state and local levels in the United States.

The initial focus of the initiative will be to develop and amplify opportunities for scientists to participate in public discussion and decision-making in their communities about local responses to climate change impacts, which differ across the country. “At a time when scientific evidence is sometimes excluded from public discussion, the need for stronger and diverse voices for science at all levels of decision-making has become increasingly clear,” said Joanne Carney, director of government relations at AAAS. “Scientists have deep connections in their communities and can be successful advocates on public issues.”

To lead the new initiative and coordinate scientist and community participation, Dan Barry has joined AAAS as director of state and local advocacy within the Office of Government Relations. Barry has extensive experience working on local campaigns that intersect science, the environment and climate change. Most recently at ecoAmerica, he focused on engaging local elected and community leaders to advance discussion of climate solutions. Previously, he served as senior climate policy analyst for the District of Columbia’s Department of Energy and Environment and as strategic partner director for the Environmental Defense Fund.

Noting that this new initiative was called for by AAAS members and staff, Barry intends to bring practical knowledge and experience in facilitating grassroots and grasstops advocacy. “We’ll be working collaboratively across AAAS to build connections and put them to work for members – taking advantage of existing resources and developing new ones – by using our contacts and growing interactions within local communities across the United States,” Barry said.

“Many members already engage directly on science issues in their communities, and many more would like to,” he continued. “This provides a unique opportunity to leverage the power of AAAS and its collective resources with the desire of scientists to make a positive impact where they live and work.”

The initiative’s starting focus on climate change will expand longstanding AAAS work on the issue, including the What We Know and How We Respond communications projects, the Leshner Leadership Institute activities on climate change, scientific consensus statements and ongoing science policy discussion at the federal and international levels.

More information about the initiative will be available as the initiative takes hold in coming months, including specific opportunities for those who would like to be involved. The Local and State Advocacy initiative at AAAS is funded by philanthropic support from the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, Reinier and Nancy Beeuwkes, Ben and Ruth Hammett, Gary and Denise David, and Rush Holt and Margaret Lancefield.

[Associated image: Irina K./Adobe Stock]