LSC was heavily represented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) annual meeting this past weekend in Washington D.C.. Faculty and students from LSC presented research, moderated panels, worked in the newsroom, and interacted with scientists, policy makers, and communicators.
AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and brings together scientists, communicators, and policy makers annually to further the missions of scientific work.
LSC professor and chair, Dominique Brossard first moderated a panel on strategies for sustaining public engagement in a research career attended by close to 500 people. The panel featured Rae Wynn-Grant of the National Geographic Society, Laura Schmitt Olabisi from Michigan State University, and Bray Beltrán from the Heart of the Rockies Initiative.
The panel discussed strategies for addressing challenges for scientists interested in public engagement. Participants shared ways they have included public engagement in their research careers and also discussed the benefit of incorporating it into their work.
Brossard also presented preliminary data from a groundbreaking survey of 64 land grant universities conducted with colleagues at the University of Massachusetts and a graduate student at UW-Madison as a base for discussion on broader impacts of public engagement at land grant universities. During this session, participants were able to voice their concerns about what’s occurring in their university or community and brainstorm on useful next steps.
“Public engagement activities for science are now at the forefront of events at AAAS,” said Brossard. “Social science input is more important now than ever!”
LSC graduate students Emily Howell and Shiyu Yang also presented research and answered questions as part of panels. Howell was on the “Improving Attitudes Towards Chemistry Through Informal Science Communication” panel and presented research conducted with Professor Dietram Scheufele. Their research is focused on how communication and educational tools developed for museum settings can shape and change civic competencies and behaviors. Howell also spoke about how citizens form attitudes about scientific issues, why and how they get interested and involved in science.
Shiyu Yang was on a panel called, “YouTube: Friend or Foe in Communicating about Science and Health” and presented SciMEP’s novel work through a unique collaboration with LSC and the American Chemical Society (ACS). Yang used analytic data from ACS’s “Reactions” channel by millions of users to analyze how viewers engage with online science videos and what factors explain variations in engagement with online science videos.
Yang’s research identified which video characteristics and social endorsement cues embedded in YouTube’s environment relate to viewership. It will also inform us how to reach more publics with best practices and engagement techniques on one of the most popular media platforms today.
“AAAS in particular is a great opportunity for our students to present their work to an interdisciplinary audience at the intersection of science and society,” Dietram Scheufele, LSC professor and AAAS attendee, said. “More and more scientific associations are discovering the importance of science communication, and LSC graduate students are uniquely positioned to set research and policy agendas in these areas.”
LSC Master’s student and communications assistant, Claire Holesovsky, also attended the AAAS conference and worked in the newsroom to provide coverage of briefings, sessions, and public events at the meeting. LSC was one of the sponsors for this year’s conference and Holesovsky played a large role in maintaining branding efforts throughout the conference.
LSC assistant professor Todd Newman, who also attended the conference, concludes, “After attending the meeting for the second time, I’ve noticed an increase in the amount of attention given to topics in both science communication and public engagement. The demand for these topics is evidence for the growing importance of science communication among scientists and the need to work collectively to advance best practices and insights in the field.”