Beauty and Benefits of Escaping the Ivory Tower

Author: Jessica Hellmann

A group of Leopold Leadership Fellows are presenting at the AAAS meeting in Boston, February, 2013. We are looking to engage conversation on our general session topic and specifically on time-effective methods of engaging in environmental outreach (Hellmann & Williams below). Join us by tweeting your thoughts at #AAASbeit and #AAASmtg. See discussion questions at the bottom of this post.

The Beauty and Benefits of Escaping the Ivory Tower
Organizers: Dawn J. Wright & Elizabeth Hadly
There are many unresolved policy problems in society, such as high unemployment and economic competitiveness, oil and gas versus alternative energy, proper stances against nuclear proliferation, public health issues, climate change, and the loss of biodiversity, all of which increasingly revolve around science. And yet, less than two percent of Congress has any professional background in science. America remains inactive about the ramifications of critical societal challenges such as climate change, environmental hazards, and living sustainably. Environmental issues are local no more, and solutions cannot remain provincial. Scientists must become envoys of knowledge that is global: laws of physics, functioning of the atmosphere, and the cadence of waxing and waning of biodiversity. Indeed, science is now part of an unavoidable and contentious public discussion on these issues, and we need it to catalyze solutions. Increasingly, scientists who are communicators are moving into positions of leadership, engaging with society, and changing their academic institutions from within. The speakers, all early- to mid-career scientists and fellows of the Leopold Leadership Program run by Stanford University, will present research and case stories of effective communication of science to policy-makers and the public, including specific lessons learned and suggested paths forward to positively change academic culture. A special focus is on early-career scientists and graduate students.
AAAS session link

Jessica Hellmann & Jack Williams, Strategies for engaging outside the ivory tower and how to find the time to do it
Talk abstract:
Our world is rapidly changing, and society needs scientific insights to build a better world for ourselves and our children. Most people agrees that in principle, scientists at the cutting-edge of discovery and innovation can and should seek to engage beyond their classroom and lab. Yet, in practice, the demands on scientists' time can be endless; simply staying at the frontier of our research is a full-time job. We will discuss this challenge: how best can I engage, given my expertise, talents, and time? There are many answers to this question including campus and community leadership, science communicator, network-builder, informal consultant, and others. We will share experiences drawn from our lives as mid-career scientists and from other Leopold Fellows, all centered on the broader theme of strategic engagement in a time-effective way. Participants are invited to share their own experiences and dialog about this topic on Twitter.

Discussion questions (Tweet your thoughts to #AAASbeit!):
What percentage of your time would you estimate that you spend during outreach? This outreach could be related to research, teaching, or other; just provide the total time.
What method of outreach do you find to be the most time-effective (i.e., generates the most return for time invested)?
What method of outreach do you find to be the most effective (even if it takes a lot of time)?
Do you see any strategic overlap between time-effective and overall most-effective methods?

Share below or via Twitter what time-effective outreach strategies work for you.