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Investing in Science Communication for Scientists

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Author: Charlotte Anthony | Category: Of Interest | February 12, 2015

Government-funded scientific research helps push science to new frontiers every day, but scientists are just beginning to determine the best ways to tell the public about their work--and how to build those practices into graduate education.

At the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) this week in San Jose, Calif., National Science Foundation (NSF) staff and NSF-funded investigators will present results and insights representing the full scope of science, from graduate education to the biochemistry of extremophiles.

During the meeting, an expert panel will speak on Sunday about "Going Public: Investing in Science Communication for Scientists," to discuss some of the most pressing communications questions facing scientists, including the roles of the government and universities in funding communications efforts. 

The interactive session will explore questions about how science communication is funded. The AAAS’s website explains that currently, scientists lack adequate infrastructure (institutional, cultural, and financial) to support public engagement with peer and non-peer audiences. The federal government invests in many science communication and engagement activities, but information is lacking about the extent of these investments, where investments are being made, and return on investment.

With a U.S. investment of nearly $450 billion annually in science and technology, support for scientists to share their knowledge and insights is patchy, piecemeal, and relatively small. The session will predominantly be a lively moderated discussion with the speakers, discussants, and the audience. Speakers will share their perspectives during the first hour of the session; the remaining time will be used for discussion.

Richard Boone, program director for NSF's Research Traineeship program, said that finding ways to effectively communicate with members of the public who do not have scientific expertise is especially important as an accountability issue for publicly-funded research.

"We serve the taxpayer," he said in a statement. "And the bottom line is we have to be able to communicate our work with every taxpayer, regardless of whether it's someone with a scientific background or not."

Here is a link to the livestream to watch the Communicating Science seminar which includes videos from the panels "Scientists Communicating Challenging Issues" and "Public Engagement for Scientists: Realities, Risks, and Rewards."

Be sure to also check out #AAASmtg to join the online conversation and see the meeting’s twitter coverage. 

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