AAAS Leshner Fellows 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. 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.
The orientation week contains a variety of instructional modules (see Communicating Science workshops), panel discussions with leaders in relevant fields, networking opportunities and public engagement practice in action. Content is tailored to the needs and goals of Fellows and might include:
- Science communication fundamentals
- Social and online media
- Video production
- 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
Orientation is conducted by AAAS staff, incorporating expertise from across the organization, and individuals from other societies, communication organizations, non-profits and universities. Fellows discuss best practices and examine case studies, considering application to their own specific areas of research and engagement goals.
During the week Fellows develop a year-long plan for public engagement and institutional change that builds on the skills and connections developed during the orientation in a way that focuses on their own discipline, community, and home institution as well as other key audiences. The medium of engagement (e.g. social media, news media, policy engagement, talks with community groups, science cafés, science festivals) varies, but each Fellow’s plan expresses clear goals for public engagement and institutional change, appropriate audiences, and specific strategies. Fellows are encouraged (and provided assistance) to identify the local resources, individuals, and organizations that will support implementation of their plans over the course of the year and beyond.