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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. Each year, AAAS Leshner Fellows are selected from disciplines at the nexus of an important science-society issue. They convene for a week of intensive public engagement and science communication training and public engagement plan development. In addition to their individual plan, they are encouraged to consider collaborative projects with one or more other fellows to pursue over the course of the year. AAAS Leshner Fellows return 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 continue 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 provide progress updates about their activities and work 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 promotes the Fellows’ successes through its website, social media and other online platforms such as Trellis Communities by AAAS. AAAS also provides 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.

Mid-career scientists and engineers: Join a growing community of scientists engaging with society. Read about two fellows' experiences as AAAS Leshner Fellows. Add your name to our mailing list to receive updates and information.

Fellows & Cohort Topics

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

2019 - 2020

The topic for the fourth cohort of AAAS Leshner Fellows is human augmentation. Applications for the cohort are now closed and the cohort will be announced at the 2019 AAAS Annual Meeting.

The 2017-2018 cohort of AAAS Leshner Leadership Institute 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 Institute 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 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

AAAS Leshner Fellows convene at AAAS headquarters in June of their fellowship year for 5 days of communication and public engagement leadership training and networking. Fellows 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.

Application Procedures

Applications open in August for each cohort. Visit the Applications Procedures page for eligibility, required materials and FAQs information. Add your name to our mailing list to receive updates and information.

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
  • Jayatri Das, Chief Bioscientist, The Franklin Institute
  • Philip W. Hammer, Senior Director, Member Society Business Development, American Institute of Physics
  • Kishore Hari, Strategic Partnerships, Science Communications and Engagement, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
  • Alan I. Leshner, Chief Executive Officer Emeritus, AAAS
  • Bruce Lewenstein, Professor of Science Communication, Cornell University
  • 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
  • Susan Renoe, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research, Extension & Engagement at the University of Missouri
  • Phillip Sharp, Institute Professor of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


The Leshner Leadership Institute has been established wholly by philanthropic support. 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.