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AAAS Mani L. Bhaumik Award for Public Engagement with Science

2021 AAAS Bhaumik Award Winner- Esther Ngumbi

The AAAS Mani L. Bhaumik Award for Public Engagement with Science, formerly the AAAS Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology, was established in 1987 to recognize scientists and engineers who demonstrate excellence in their contribution to public engagement with science. The recipient receives a monetary prize of $5,000, a commemorative plaque, and recognition at the AAAS Annual Meeting.

Beginning with the 2019 award year, the award is endowed by and named for quantum physicist Mani L. Bhaumik. Bhaumik is internationally known for the advances he made to excimer laser technology, which eventually led to Lasik eye surgery. He hopes to elevate the recognition of working and retired scientists for their exceptional efforts to communicate science in ways that inform and engage the public.

Under the auspices of this new endowment, the award has an increased and renewed focus on public engagement. Public engagement activities emphasize dialogue with various publics and often result from a public interaction, request, or need. Specifically, these activities are defined as the individual’s active participation in efforts to engage with the public on science- and technology-related issues and promote meaningful exchanges between science and society, as highlighted here.

The award is presented each year at the AAAS Annual Meeting.

Visit the awards nomination site from April 15 through June 30, 2021 11:59 ET, to nominate a scientist or engineer for the 2022 award, to be honored at the 2022 AAAS Annual Meeting. Inquiries may be directed to the Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology.


  • Nominations may be made by individuals, universities, government agencies, media, research organizations, and AAAS affiliate organizations.
  • Editors from publishing houses may only offer one nomination.
  • Self-nominations are permitted.
  • Prior nomination does not exclude a nominee applying in subsequent years. Re-nomination is encouraged.
  • Nominees must be individual scientists or engineers. Groups or institutions will not be considered for this award.
  • AAAS employees are ineligible.
  • Eligible nominees include active or retired scientists and engineers from all disciplines who have contributed substantially to the public's engagement with science or technology. Public engagement activities must be above and beyond job responsibilities.
  • Nominees considered “early career” may be eligible for the AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science.  Early career is defined as an individual who has completed their terminal degree within seven years of the deadline for nominations.

Required Materials

Nominations and materials must be in English.

All nominations must be submitted electronically through our nomination site. If you require an alternate format, please contact Nominations and supporting materials will not be accepted by email or by post.

You will be asked to provide:

  • Name, email address, institution, position, professional address and phone number of the nominee.
  • Name, email address, institution, position, professional address and phone number of the nominator (if not a self-nomination). 
  • Nomination statement describing the public engagement activities that form the basis for the nomination.
    • This statement of no more than 2 pages should discuss the nominee’s approach to public engagement. The statement must show how the work is based on dialogue with the public. It should emphasize the nominee’s public engagement goal(s), intended audience(s), and message(s), as well as the level and type of dialogue achieved with their audiences, evaluation of public engagement work, and examples of how public engagement has affected the nominee’s scientific work. 
    • Examples of types of public engagement activities are included under Selection and Criteria. More information about AAAS’s approach to public engagement is available here.
  • The nominee’s curriculum vitae
    • Limit CV to five pages, with a specific section highlighting public engagement activities distinct from work that is required as part of the nominee’s job. If the CV is longer than five pages, only the first five pages will be considered.
  • At least two (up to five) representative samples or other documentation which illustrate or describe the nominee’s public engagement contributions
    • Samples should exhibit the activities discussed in the statement and further contribute to the narrative of the nomination, showing different representations of the breadth of their public engagement.
    • Letters of support (up to 2) from colleagues can also be provided; note that letters count toward the five sample/document limit.

All materials submitted become the property of AAAS. 

Selection and Criteria

  • One scientist or engineer will be chosen to receive the award each year.
  • Successful nominees will have demonstrated excellence in their contributions to public engagement with science activities, with a focus on interactive dialogue between the individual and a non-scientific, public audience(s).
  • Types of public engagement activities might include but are not limited to: informal science education; public engagement and public dialogue activities, such as science cafés and science festivals; public policy activities; science communication activities, such as mass media, including radio, TV, books, and film; and social media.
  • The selection committee includes distinguished scientists, engineers, and science communicators named by AAAS. Decisions of the committee are final after approval by the board.
  • AAAS may ask winners to contribute to public engagement with science by speaking to groups of AAAS constituencies, helping to identify scientists to participate in AAAS engagement events, and participating in other AAAS activities related to public engagement with science.

The award selection committee will evaluate nominations with attention to several categories of merit (below).  Nominees will possibly excel in one category more than others. Consideration will be given to nominees whose engagement work demonstrates:

  • Engagement.  Are the nominee’s activities in line with AAAS’s definition of good public engagement? Public engagement with science describes intentional, meaningful interactions that provide opportunities for mutual learning between scientists and members of the public. Mutual learning refers not just to the acquisition of knowledge, but also to increased familiarity with a breadth of perspectives, frames, and worldviews. Goals for public engagement with science in addition to mutual learning include civic engagement skills and empowerment, increased awareness of the cultural relevance of science, and recognition of the importance of multiple perspectives and domains of knowledge to scientific endeavors.
  • Impact. The number of people reached and the impact of the engagement.
  • Critical audiences. Consideration will be given to engagement efforts that focus on underserved and/or underrepresented audiences.
  • An important or difficult message. Topics vital to addressing important issues in contemporary society, topics which touch upon difficult science and society debates, and/or seek to communicate about a science topic that is rarely the focus of public engagement efforts. 

2021 Recipient

Esther Ngumbi,an entomologist whose prolific engagement efforts have impacted the lives of farmers, students, and others, will receive the 2021 Mani L. Bhaumik Award for Public Engagement with Science from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Over the first decade of her career, Ngumbi has applied her research on crops’ pest resistance and drought tolerance to benefit farmers in her home country of Kenya and across sub-Saharan Africa. Meanwhile, she has published more than 100 opinion pieces in mainstream news outlets, mentored students from groups underrepresented in STEM fields, and taught classes on science communication at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where she serves as an assistant professor of entomology and African American studies.

Please view the complete list of past recipients.

AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science

Nominees considered "early-career" might be eligible for the AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science.

AAAS Awards

Each year, AAAS recognizes significant contributions to science and the public’s engagement with science. Learn more about these awards and nominate a scientist, engineer, author, journalist or public servant for their outstanding work.

Ethics Statement

All award winners are expected to meet the commonly held standards of professional ethics* and scientific integrity.

*Breaches of professional ethics might include sexual misconduct, racial discrimination, or other ethical violations. Sexual harassment or retaliation for declining, objecting to, or reporting harassment or other sexual conduct may constitute a serious breach of professional ethics.

Diversity Statement

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is committed to equal opportunity for all persons, without regard to race, color, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, or other protected categories. AAAS seeks as diverse a pool of award nominations as possible, including a wide range of disciplines, institutional types, and geographic locations.

Inquiries may be directed to: