AAAS Taps Inaugural Class of Community Engagement Fellows

The AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program recently selected its first group of fellows, who will work to enhance communication and collaboration across the fields of science and engineering. | RTI

AAAS has named 17 scientific, non-profit, technological and communications experts to become the inaugural class of AAAS Community Engagement Fellows, an effort that will expose the diverse mix of fellows to training sessions and events to hone their skills in enhancing collaboration among scientists.

The one-year pilot program was established to improve online and in-person collaboration among scientific communities and expand collaboration in and among scientific organizations and research institutions. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation funded the program to create an active community of scientists and researchers to share ideas and debate approaches to advance discovery.

The named fellows bring multiple experiences working in cross-disciplinary scientific associations, professional scientific societies and interdisciplinary organizations including those focused on technological communications tools and platforms.

Among the group are those already working in the nascent field of community engagement for the Union of Concerned Scientists and the International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Forum as well as other experts in community engagement and outreach such as one fellow from the Data Observation Network for Earth, a cyberinfrastructure project that the National Science Foundation funds.

The AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program gets underway with 17 fellows in place. | AAAS

Take, for example, incoming Fellows Allen Pope, the executive secretary of the International Arctic Science Committee, and Malin Sandström, a community engagement officer at the International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility Society. They both aspire to use the fellowship to help them better connect scientific communities spread over continents and to get the many scientific subspecialty fields to collaborate with more ease.

The fellows will receive training and professional development, including an intensive, week-long session at the headquarters of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in January. They also will attend monthly webinars, report their challenges and successes and attend mid-year and end-of-year meetings.

“The fellowship will help address a need across scientific organizations and research institutions for greater collaboration, something that is particularly necessary in a scientific and research world that is increasingly multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional, and multi-national,” said Lou Woodley, program director for the fellowship and the director of community engagement for Trellis, a platform for scientific collaboration operated by AAAS.

Community engagement is an emerging field dedicated to helping facilitate connections among scientists and between their own groups through face-to-face communications, online tools and social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and the Trellis platform. AAAS launched Trellis in December 2014 in response to a membership survey that found eight of 10 respondents wanted better ways to connect with scientists online.

“We are so excited by the enthusiasm and diversity of skills and experiences represented by this initial class of Fellows. What they will bring in, and what we hope they will take back to their collaborations, associations, and the STEM community as a whole can truly begin to propel scientific communication and collaboration," said Josh Freeman, co-principal investigator of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program and founding general manager of Trellis.

The announced fellows are:

  • Melanie Binder – Community Engagement Manager, American Society of Plant Biologists, Rockville, Maryland
  • Amber Budden – Director of Community Engagement and Outreach, Data Observation Network for Earth (DataONE)
  • Stefanie Butland – Community Manager, rOpenSci
  • Jennifer Davison – Program Manager, Urban@UW, Seattle, Washington
  • Josh Knackert – IceCube/AAAS Community Engagement Fellow, Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center, Madison, Wisconsin
  • Andreas Leidolf – Assistant Director and Project Administrator, iUTAH NSF EPSCoR (Innovative Urban Transitions and Arid region Hydro-sustainability), Logan, Utah
  • Marsha Lucas – Publications and Communications Coordinator, Society for Developmental Biology, Bethesda, Maryland
  • Stephanie O’Donnell – Community Manager, WILDLABS.net, Fauna & Flora International, Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • Heidi Olds – Technical and Professional Activities Coordinator, Society of Petroleum Engineers, Richardson, Texas
  • Allen Pope – Executive Secretary, International Arctic Science Committee
  • Katie Pratt – Director of Communications, Deep Carbon Observatory, Narragansett, Rhode Island
  • Malin Sandström - Community Engagement Officer, International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility, Stockholm, Sweden
  • Melissa Varga – Community Manager, Union of Concerned Scientists, Washington, D.C.
  • Stephanie Vasko – Research Associate and Program Manager, Toolbox Dialogue Project, Michigan State University, Michigan
  • Rosanna Volchok – Network Engagement Manager, New York Academy of Sciences, New York, New York
  • Elisha Wood-Charlson – Research/Communications Project Manager, University of Hawaii Simons Collaboration on Ocean Processes and Ecology and Center for Microbial Oceanography, Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Lynn Yarmey – Director of Community Development, Research Data Alliance