At this year’s AAAS annual meeting, the volume of sessions and workshops about science communications clearly reflected the community’s growing appetite and interest. We’re notably moving past conversations about why scientists need to engage, and into conversations around how we can best support scientists to do so. Research shows that scientists do want to engage, but that they don’t have the time or resources to do it.
We’re bombarded by headlines touting the public’s doubt in science. National Geographic’s March cover story begins: “We live in an age when all manner of scientific knowledge – from climate change to vaccinations – faces furious opposition.” As Dan Kahan says in his new paper What is the ‘Science of Science Communication’, “Never have human societies known so much about mitigating the dangers they face but agreed so little about what they collectively know.” For some of you, this only bolsters your resolve to engage. For others, it’s cause for wariness … or the impetus not to engage at all.
Recently, the National Academy of Sciences’ Public Interfaces of Life Science Roundtable hosted a 2-day workshop called “When Science and Citizens Connect: Public Engagement on Genetically Modified Organisms.” The goal for this workshop was to explore and examine what we know about the interfaces between scientists and society, to better help scientists navigate those spaces and engage. While GMOs provided a lens for the conversation, the presentations and discussions are really relevant for any scientist thinking about engagement.