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2019 Communicating Science Seminar

The 2019 Communicating Science Seminar drew approximately 500 participants on Thu., Feb. 14, as part of the 2019 AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. Archived videos of the 2019 seminar are below. Read more about the 2019 Communicating Science Seminar in AAAS News.

Connecting Science and Policy: Opportunities for Dialogue with Policymakers

AAAS

Strategies for Sustaining Public Engagement in a Research Career

AAAS

Science and technology are integral to modern life, and many critical decisions facing society require finding common ground between scientists and members of the public. This annual seminar, organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology, focuses on different aspects and approaches to communicating science, always emphasizing both theory and practice. The 2019 Communicating Science Seminar took place on Thursday, February 14, 2019 at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, D.C. as part of the AAAS Annual Meeting.

The sessions provide a forum for scientists, science communication and public engagement professionals, and social scientists whose research can inform best practices to share their expertise and learn from one another. Participants gain actionable knowledge, ask questions and discuss issues, and join a growing community focused on public engagement with science. This year will include afternoon breakout sessions on a variety of topics solicited from and organized in advance by attendees.

At a Glance (Scroll down for complete schedule)

Connecting Science and Policy: Opportunities for Dialogue with Policymakers
9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.

Strategies for Sustaining Public Engagement in a Research Career
11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Participant-Organized Breakout Sessions
2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

  1. Building Campus and Community Capacity for Engagement: A Networking Fair
  2. The Power of Infographics
  3. Communicating Uncertainty
  4. Communicating Science across Boundaries
  5. Building On / Building Out the Knowledge Bases through Research-Practice Partnerships
  6. Simplified Doesn’t Have to Mean Dumbed-Down
  7. SciComm Applied: Viewing Broader Impacts through a Science Communication Lens
  8. The Michigan Public Engagement Framework

Complete Schedule

Connecting Science and Policy: Opportunities for Dialogue with Policymakers
9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
Marriott Wardman Park, Thurgood Marshall (Mezzanine Level)

Many scientists, like other members of the public, may feel far-removed from policy debates. When it comes to engaging local, state, or national-level policymakers, they may have a certain amount of hesitation and uncertainty about how, whether, and why to engage. However, both one-time interactions between scientists and policymakers and sustained involvement in a policy process have the potential to further policy dialogues. This session will consider what strategies are effective for conveying policy-relevant research to policymakers and advocating for the use of evidence in policymaking or for science funding more broadly. Panelists will discuss research on what works when communicating with policymakers at local to national levels of government and provide practical insights, including how to engage with varying amounts of time and different goals.

Moderator:

Dan Barry, Director of Local and State Advocacy, AAAS

Speakers:

  • Jesus Alvelo-Maurosa, AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow, National Science Foundation, “Shut Up and Listen: The First Path of Communicating Science”
  • Sarah Brady, Interim Deputy Director, California Council on Science and Technology, “Delivering Science to State Leaders: Lessons from the California State Capitol”
  • Liz Suhay, Associate Professor, American University, “Communicating with Policymakers in a Politically Polarized Environment”

 

Strategies for Sustaining Public Engagement in a Research Career
11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Marriott Wardman Park, Thurgood Marshall (Mezzanine Level)

Perhaps the most persistent challenge for scientists interested in public engagement is finding the time to do it, especially when it is not explicitly part of their job or reward structure. Strategies for addressing this range from setting aside a few hours a week or month for public engagement, to incorporating public engagement activities as a part of “broader impacts” work in funding requests, to co-creating research projects with members of the public. Participants in this session will share ways they have included public engagement in their research careers at a variety of institutions, with different funding agencies and incentives. They will also discuss how incorporating public engagement into their research has benefited their work, and challenges they have encountered along the way.

Moderator:

Dominique Brossard, Professor and Chair, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Speakers:

  • Rae Wynn-Grant, Fellow, National Geographic Society, “Centering authenticity as a non-traditional scientist (and having fun!)”
  • Laura Schmitt Olabisi, Associate Professor, Michigan State University, “Moving public engagement out of the 'service' box”
  • Bray Beltrán, Science Coordinator, Heart of the Rockies Initiative, “Should public needs dictate your research agenda? A practitioner's perspective”

 

Participant-Organized Breakout Sessions
2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

1. Building Campus and Community Capacity for Engagement: A Networking Fair
2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Marriott Wardman Park, Thurgood Marshall (Mezzanine Level)

Building community and campus capacity for public engagement requires action at multiple levels. This session will begin with short introductions from teams working on projects including assessing faculty experiences to hosting a campus science day to implementing community-based research projects to embedding institutional support for public engagement. Participants will then gather in smaller conversation groups to talk with the speakers and each other about opportunities and challenges.

  • Making Research University Campuses “Destinations for Exploration" (Tom Zinnen and Liz Jesse, Biotechnology Extension Specialists, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Travis Tangen, Education and Outreach Manager, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation; and Matt Johnson, Center for Science and the Schools, Penn State University)
  • Embedding Public Engagement within Science: The Critical Role of Boundary Spanners (Sarah Garlick, Director of Science Policy and Outreach & Investigator, Hubbard Brook Research Foundation, and Kathy Fallon Lambert, Senior Advisor, Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Co-founder, Science Policy Exchange)
  • Conceptualizing Public Engagement: Developing an organizational framework and landscape map for engagement efforts at an academic institution (Elyse Aurbach, Public Engagement Lead, University of Michigan)
  • Public Engagement with Science at Land Grant Universities (Dominique Brossard, Professor and Chair, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Ezra Markowitz, Assistant Professor, University of Massachusetts Amherst)
  • Best Practices for Community–University Partnerships (Kirsten Schwarz, Associate Professor, Northern Kentucky University and Laura Schmitt Olabisi, Associate Professor, Michigan State University)
  • Building Support for Science Communication and Engagement at Universities (Erica Kimmerling, Hellman Fellow in Science and Technology Policy, American Academy of Arts and Sciences)

2. The Power of Infographics
2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Marriott Wardman Park, Tyler (Mezzanine Level)

Translating scientific research into easily understandable infographics is an increasingly valuable skill. This past year, an assortment of food and agriculture researchers have been paired with professional graphic designers to collaboratively develop high impact infographics on complicated subjects ranging from biodiversity to climate change, and dietary diversity to GMOs. In the first half of this session, these scientists and designers, alongside other professionals in infographics, will communicate the lessons learned through their experiences. In the second half, session participants will have the opportunity to get a start on their own infographics, guided by designer professionals.

Organizers:

  • Michael Kantar, Assistant Professor, University of Hawaii
  • Colin Khoury, Research Scientist, International Center for Tropical Agriculture
  • Ari Novy, President & CEO, San Diego Botanic Garden

Speakers:

  • Simone Klabin, author of Food & Drink Infographics (Taschen, 2018)
  • Colin Khoury, Research Scientist, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)
  • Richard Waite, Food Program, World Resources Institute (WRI)
  • Ellie Barber, Creative Director, Aspen Global Change Institute
  • Jerry Glover, USAID
  • Yael Kisel, KBRwyle Support Scientist, NASA Ames Research Center

3. Communicating Uncertainty
2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Marriott Wardman Park, Truman (Mezzanine Level)

Clear communication of scientific concepts is critical to gain public trust. Yet sometimes the science is not clear. Uncertainty in science is common and can be readily misrepresented in the media. This is particularly important when collective action is required. From infectious disease outbreaks to climate change scientists must convey information to motivate action and understanding.  It is crucial to open channels of communication on these topics but are we doing it effectively? How do we communicate uncertainty whilst being true to our scientific ethos of not overstating but still conveying the importance and potential significance of current knowledge, particularly impacts of inaction. If we state risk to invoke fear, does that ultimately act as a hindrance or a help? What is the role of the media and social media in helping us convey accurate information? Drawing from examples of recent pandemics including Ebola and Zika, and climate change as an intentional set of provocations, this session aims to ignite discussion, reaction, and action. We will take a participative action-based learning approach, to challenge assumptions, motivations, and considerations. We will look to explore and build upon debates and conversations that are taking place across a range of online forums including the IPCC and The Conversation and disseminate the discussion outcomes via a blog or opinion piece.

Organizers:

  • Sheena Cruickshank, Professor, University of Manchester
  • Melissa Kenney, Associate Research Professor, University of Maryland

4. Communicating Science across Boundaries
2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Marriott Wardman Park, Taylor (Mezzanine Level)

Science communication plays a tremendous role in enhancing the diversity of those who benefit from, utilize, and often contribute to scientific endeavors.  Conventional approaches that highlight improved messaging, technology, and popular media outlets can fall short among heterogeneous audiences. This session addresses the need, opportunities, and skills for engagement with participants including: (a) minority communities, (b) non-English speakers, (c) low science-literate yet often highly committed individuals, and (d) international scientists often with different norms for professional reward and recognition. The session organizers bring years of experience – successes and failures – from a range of settings including the US-Mexico border, Native communities, low-income settings, and international, multi-lingual science communications and science diplomacy initiatives. We envision a highly interactive, audience-led session geared towards identifying and honing skills that enhance diversity and bridge cultural borders.

Organizers:

  • Regina Francies, Lecturer, University of Central Florida
  • Alexis Racelis, Assistant Professor, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
  • Mónica Ramírez-Andreotta, Assistant Professor, University of Arizona
  • Christopher Scott, Professor, University of Arizona

5. Building On / Building Out the Knowledge Bases through Research-Practice Partnerships
2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Marriott Wardman Park, Jefferson (Mezzanine Level)

As efforts to engage the public with science expand, there is a need to ensure that the work both builds on and advances the knowledge base about effective, inclusive, science engagement. How can partnerships between research scientists, science communicators, and learning researchers lead to the design of evidence-based/evidence-producing science engagement? This interactive session will bring together perspectives from research and practice to explore how collaborations can expand equity in science engagement.  We will use a genre of tools -- developed by the CAISE broadening participation task force, and piloted in several science communication public programs and training programs -- to explore common ground and identify areas of practice that are ripe for a developing research agenda on equity in science communication. Through small and large group interactions participants will expand (a) their social networks, (b) familiarity with bodies of relevant social sciences research (education, sociology, cross-cultural psychology, learning sciences, etc.), (c) access to a suite of professional learning tools they can use in their home settings; and (d) vision of how collaborative research-practice partnerships can lead to improved professional practices and outcomes for the public.

Organizer:

  • Bronwyn Bevan, Senior Research Scientist, University of Washington
  • Emily Therese Cloyd, Director, AAAS Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology

6. Simplified Doesn’t Have to Mean Dumbed-Down
2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Marriott Wardman Park, Jackson (Mezzanine Level)

Crafting scientific communications that are short and simple without being "dumbed down" can be a challenge. Scientists may be wary of communicating with non-scientific audiences for fear that their findings will be misunderstood, distorted, or over-simplified. However, with practice, they can gain skills and confidence in communicating with non-scientists. In the first part of this breakout session, participants will discuss the different expectations of scientific and non-scientific audiences, including issues around narrative structures, terminology, and culture. The presenter will provide specific examples and strategies for drafting public-friendly science content, based in part on her experience as the editor of Sustainable Nano, a blog written by graduate students in the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology (sustainable-nano.com). In the second part of the session, participants will practice translating scientific concepts and technical abstracts into public-friendly summaries. They will have the opportunity to give and receive feedback and revise their drafts, with the goal of leaving the session with a sample ready for publication in a newspaper, on a blog, or as a radio spot. Participants are invited to bring their own research or use examples provided for the exercise.

Organizer:

  • Miriam Krause, Director of Education & Outreach, Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology & University of Minnesota

7. SciComm Applied: Viewing Broader Impacts through a Science Communication Lens
2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Marriott Wardman Park, Johnson (Mezzanine Level)

All NSF proposals are evaluated on two criteria: Intellectual Merit (IM; the potential to advance knowledge) and Broader Impacts (BI; the benefits to society). This interactive workshop will start from a vantage point which views BI, in its essence, as science communication applied towards the goal of conveying societal relevance and benefits of research. After introducing BI, providing an historical context and delivering a brief primer on the current state of BI policy and practice, the view of BI as "applied scicomm" will be introduced and contextualized. Breakout groups will then be formed around multiple "modes" of scicomm (blogging, podcasts, science video-making, op-eds and commentaries, and others to be determined by workshop participants) and each group will strategize innovative ways to integrate those into BI plans. Relative strengths and weaknesses, as well as best practices will be explored and summarized by each breakout group. Consensus views will then be summarized during subsequent report-out and synthesized into a cohesive view of BI as an applied form of science communication. Participants will contribute to, and come away with, a better understanding of the relationship between scicomm and BI, as well as how when viewed through a scicomm lens BI efforts are more robust and effective. This workshop will be facilitated by National Alliance for Broader Impacts leaders who also have proven expertise as science communication practitioners and trainers.

Organizers:

  • Jane Horwitz, Director of the Science Outreach Initiative, University of Pennsylvania
  • Kevin Niemi, Director of Outreach Programs, WiScience – University of Wisconsin
  • Susan Renoe, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research, Extension & Engagement, University of Missouri
  • Laurie Van Egeren, Interim Associate Provost for University Outreach and Engagement, Michigan State University
  • Jory Weintraub, Science Communication Program Director, Duke University Broader Impacts Resource Center

8. The Michigan Public Engagement Framework
2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Marriott Wardman Park, Taft (Mezzanine Level)

Our community connects scientists and publics in many ways: how do we understand the public engagement ecosystem as a whole? What insights might this system-wide view yield as we leverage our differences to evolve and enrich our collective field? In this discussion, we'll explore the draft Michigan Public Engagement Framework and the implications for training, assessment, and support efforts in order to spur these discussions among our community.

Organizer:

  • Elyse Aurbach, Public Engagement Lead, University of Michigan