Leshner Leadership Institute for Public Engagement with Science

Training and Networking Program
Application Process
Advisory Committee for the Leshner Leadership Institute at AAAS


CEO Emeritus Alan I. Leshner

The Leshner Leadership Institute is an initiative of the AAAS Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology, started in 2015 in honor of CEO Emeritus Alan I. Leshner, who founded the Center. Each year, a cohort of 15 Public Engagement Fellows from an area of research at the nexus of science and society will convene for a week of intensive public engagement and science communication training and public engagement plan development. Fellows will return to their institutions with a renewed commitment to develop and implement public engagement activities, a forum for training other scientists in their communities, and increased capacity for public engagement leadership.


What We Know website

2016 - 2017

Climate change is the topic for the 2016 cohort of Public Engagement Fellows. The 2016 topic of climate change builds on recent work of the Center in developing and disseminating What We Know, a climate communication project.

2017 - 2018

Infectious disease is the topic for the 2017 cohort of Public Engagement Fellows.

2018 - 2019

The third cohort of Fellows, to be selected in late 2017, will be researchers in the field of food and water security.

AAAS staff and the Leshner Leadership Institute advisory committee will select other areas of science for future cohorts, particularly those with a strong science-society component and sufficient scholarship in relevant communication research. Fellows are working in areas of science that intersect with the science-society topic.

Training and Networking Program

Public Engagement Fellows will convene at AAAS headquarters in June of their fellowship year for 5 days of communication and public engagement leadership training and networking. The Fellows will continue their development as leaders throughout the rest of the year via regular virtual meetings and support from staff, experts in the field of public engagement, and their cohort.

The training will contain a variety of instructional modules (building on AAAS Communicating Science workshops), discussions with leaders in relevant fields, networking opportunities, and observation of public engagement in action. Small breakout groups will be formed to accommodate past experience, expertise, and interest. Content will be tailored to the needs and goals of Fellows and will generally include:

  • Communication basics (i.e. goals, audience, message, strategy, and delivery)
  • Social and online media
  • Video production
  • Media/interviews
  • Policy engagement
  • Writing for non-technical audiences
  • Face-to-face programs and interactions
  • Listening and learning: Practicing engagement in two directions
  • Graphics, visuals and infographics
  • Evaluating public engagement
Piled Higher and Deeper" | Jorge Cham

During the training, each Fellow will draft a public engagement plan for the year that builds on the skills and connections he or she developed during the training. Each Fellow’s plan will focus on his or her own discipline, community, and home institution, as well as key public audiences. Their engagement mediums (e.g. social media, news media, policy engagement, community groups, science cafés, science festivals) will vary, but each Fellow’s plan will express a clear goal for public engagement, appropriate audiences, and specific delivery strategies. AAAS staff and experts will assist Fellows in identifying local resources, individuals, and organizations, supporting Fellows as they implement and evaluate their plans over the course of the year and beyond.

Application Process

Applications open September 2017 for the 2018-19 cohort of fellows in the field of food and water security. Add your name to our mailing list to receive updates and information.

The 2016-2017 cohort of Leshner Leadership Institute fellows. | AAAS



Learn more about the 2016-2017 class of fellows.


Learn more about the 2017-2018 class of fellows.

Advisory Committee for the Leshner Leadership Institute at AAAS

A committee of experts from the natural and physical sciences, the social sciences, and the practice of public engagement advises the Institute:

  • Dominique Brossard, Professor and Chair, Department of Life Sciences Communication, University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • Kim Cobb, Professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Daniel Colón-Ramos, Associate Professor of Cell Biology, Yale University
  • Philip W. Hammer, Associate Vice President, American Institute of Physics
  • Kishore Hari, Science Festival Coordinator, University of California, San Francisco
  • Alan I. Leshner, Chief Executive Officer Emeritus, AAAS
  • Bruce Lewenstein, Professor of Science Communication, Cornell University
  • Arthur Lupia, Hal R. Varian Collegiate Professor of Political Science, University of Michigan
  • Susan Renoe, Director of the Broader Impacts Network, University of Missouri
  • Phillip Sharp, Institute Professor of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Leshner Leadership Institute has been established wholly by philanthropic support. As of November 2015, more than 130 gifts ranging from $20 to $100,000 have combined to exceed $500,000 and fund the Institute for its first five years.

These gifts celebrate and advance CEO Emeritus Alan I. Leshner's vision to sharpen scientists' public engagement skills while working to encourage the civic dialogue needed to address the science-society issues we face today.

AAAS thanks the generous individuals and organizations who have contributed funding to the Leshner Leadership Institute. Please consider making a gift online or contact the Development Office by email to learn more.


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