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Biological Anthropology and Dialogue with Diverse Publics

Workshop organized by AAAS DoSER's Engaging Scientists project for the 2018 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPA)

AAPA speakers 2018


April 13, 2018
87th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists
Austin, TX

An individual’s worldview, including their religious beliefs and cultural background, informs their perceptions of research studies and the scientific endeavor as a whole. According to a 2015 Pew survey, a majority of the American public identifies as religious or spiritual, and view science as ‘often in conflict’ with religion. These divides are detrimental for all concerned, as a presumption that scientists hold different worldviews (including backgrounds, values, beliefs, and priorities) than other publics can impact the perceived trustworthiness and credibility of scientists on critical issues at the interface of science and society. Accordingly, engagement is increasingly recognized as an important dimension of science scholarship. Effective engagement can have a positive impact on public appreciation and support for scientific research, funding, education, and science-informed policy. Engagement with publics directly or indirectly impacted by scientific research is important for ethical reasons, but can also yield important insights for research topics, hypothesis development, methodology, and data interpretation. In a climate of increasing social polarization, there is a need for scientists to move beyond a science communication model focused on correcting perceived “deficits” in public knowledge and perspectives, and towards a framework centered on dialogue, trust-building, and the identification of shared interests and goals among scientists and other stakeholders.

This symposium highlighted examples, challenges and broader strategies for effective engagement with diverse publics on topics within and beyond biological anthropology. 

Read more about the Engaging Scientists project here.

Read speaker papers here.


Welcoming remarks by Robert O'Malley, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
Acknowledging worldviews: A proactive strategy for engagement with science by Constance Bertka, Science and Society Resources, LLC

An evolving national conversation on human evolution by Rick Potts, Smithsonian Institution

Religious Cultural Competence in Evolution Education (ReCCEE) by Sara Brownell, Arizona State University

Toward a more “engaged field primatology”: Communicating, engaging, and collaborating with diverse publics by Erin Riley, San Diego State University

The impact of changing religious practices on orangutan fieldwork and conservation in West Kalimantan (Borneo), Indonesia by Cheryl Knott, Boston University

Forensic Science, Death, and the Public: Towards Effective and Compassionate Communication by Elizabeth DiGangi, Binghampton University

Moving forward with NAGPRA: From basic implementation to ethical engagement and collaborative reciprocity by Jayne-Leigh Thomas, Indiana University

Reclaiming African American ancestries for research, identity construction, and memorialization by Fatimah Jackson, Howard University

Politics of collaborative research with Indigenous communities: Moving beyond the framework of community engagement by Alyssa Bader, University of Illinois and Savannah Martin, Washington University, St. Louis

Situating anthropological genetics within local beliefs in pastoral Kenya by Carla Handley, Arizona State University

Being Black and Doing Black Research: Methods for Recruiting and Retaining African-Americans in a Bio-cultural Health Study by Julius Doyle, University of Washington

Zika Virus and maternal stigmatization: Supporting maternal and child health through religious engagement in American Samoa by Michaela E. Howells, University of North Carolina - Wilmington

Can we “Kickstart” science? by Melissa A. Wilson Sayres, Arizona State University

An imperfect science: Lessons for cross-disciplinary dialogue and public advocacy from the March for Science Boston by Elizabeth Crocker, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)