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Leshner Leadership Institute for Public Engagement with Science


CEO Emeritus Alan I. Leshner

The AAAS Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology manages the AAAS Alan I. Leshner Leadership Institute for Public Engagement with Science brought together fellows from disciplines at the nexus of an important science-society issue. They convened for a week of intensive public engagement and science communication training and public engagement plan development. In addition to their individual plan, they pursued collaborative projects with one or more other fellows over the course of the year. AAAS Leshner Fellows returned to their institutions with a renewed commitment to develop and implement public engagement activities, train and mentor other scientists in their communities, and promote public engagement within their institutions.

AAAS Leshner Fellows continued their development as leaders throughout the year via regular virtual meetings and support from staff, experts in the field of public engagement and their cohort. Throughout the year, fellows provided progress updates about their activities and worked with AAAS staff to document and share their efforts in a variety of ways (such as developing short case studies and writing a blog post). AAAS actively promoted the Fellows’ successes through its website, social media and other online platforms. AAAS also provided either a workshop at each Fellow’s institution or seed money for a public engagement-related project.

AAAS Leshner fellows focus their activities in two areas during the fellowship year: public engagement and institutional change. Public engagement with science describes intentional, meaningful interactions that provide opportunities for mutual learning between scientists and members of the public. Institutional change focuses on building understanding about, capacity for and support of public engagement within the various institutions researchers are affiliated with, including universities, government agencies, professional societies and private industry.

Read about two fellows' experiences as AAAS Leshner Fellows in the AAAS Member Spotlights, and read profiles of all the fellows on the program homepage

Over five years, Leshner Fellows collectively engaged tens of thousands of people through their engagement activities. The fellows also built public engagement capacity within their scientific institutions, disciplines, networks, and communities, including through sharing what they have learned in their work as AAAS Leshner Fellows with hundreds of their students and colleagues. 

Fellows & Cohort Topics

2019-2020 Leshner Leadership Fellows, researchers in the field of human augmentation.
The 2019-2020 cohort of AAAS Leshner Leadership Fellows. | AAAS

2020 - 2021: Artificial Intelligence

The topic for the fifth cohort of AAAS Leshner Fellows is artificial intelligence. Learn more about the 2020-2021 class of fellows.

The 2018-2019 cohort of AAAS Leshner Leadership Fellows. | AAAS

2019 - 2020: Human Augmentation

The topic for the fourth cohort of AAAS Leshner Fellows is human augmentation. Learn more about the 2019-2020 class of fellows.

The 2017-2018 cohort of AAAS Leshner Leadership Fellows. | AAAS

2018 - 2019: Food and Water Security

The third cohort of AAAS Leshner Fellows are researchers in the field of food and water security. Learn more about the 2018-2019 class of fellows.

The 2016-2017 cohort of AAAS Leshner Leadership Fellows. | AAAS

2017-2018: Infectious Disease

Infectious disease is the topic for the 2017 cohort of AAAS Leshner Fellows. Learn more about the 2017-2018 class of fellows.

2016-2017: Climate Change

Climate change is the topic for the 2016 cohort of AAAS Leshner Fellows and builds on the Center's work in developing and disseminating What We Know, a climate communication project. Learn more about the 2016-2017 class of Fellows.

AAAS staff and the Leshner Leadership Institute advisory committee selected the areas of science for the 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.

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 advised the Institute:

  • Dominique Brossard, Professor and Chair, Department of Life Sciences Communication, University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • Jayatri Das, Chief Bioscientist, The Franklin Institute
  • Philip W. Hammer, Senior Director, Member Society Business Development, American Institute of Physics
  • Alan I. Leshner, Chief Executive Officer Emeritus, AAAS
  • Maja Mataric, Vice Dean for Research, Viterbi School of Engineering, University of Southern California
  • Benjamin Preston, Director, Infrastructure Resilience and Environmental Policy Program, RAND Corporation
  • Phillip Sharp, Institute Professor of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


The Leshner Leadership Institute was established wholly by philanthropic support. Gifts ranging from $20 to $100,000 combined to exceed $500,000 and funded the Institute for 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 contributed funding to the Leshner Leadership Institute.