Several Leopold Leadership Fellows and I have a series of guests posts at the Soapboxscience blog at Nature this week. A series of three posts address #reachingoutsci and the opportunities and challenges that confront scientists in making their research understood by and useful to society. The series arises from a session at the 2013 AAAS symposium, The Beauty and Benefits of Escaping the Ivory Tower. (Check out#AAASbeit on Twitter.)
Highlights from the blogs...
Bridging the Science-to-Society Gap
"This shift in what society needs—not just science for science’s sake, but to also using science to help recognize and solve societal problems—means that the goals of communicating science have to shift as well. Society now needs information from scientists not just in the form of interesting facts assembled in hard-to-find places, but especially as recommendations about how to manage the biosphere to maintain what humans depend on for their physical, economic, and emotional well-being. Scientists, after all, are the people paid to produce and collect the knowledge that is relevant to the world."
The Twenty-fifth Hour of the Day: Finding Time for Outreach
"Is your career compromised if you spend time on outreach rather than science, or is engagement all that really counts in a world urgently in need of scientific leadership? Fortunately, new studies suggest that these tasks aren’t necessarily a conflict—those scientists who reach beyond the boundaries of traditional science-doing also appear to be the most productive scientists, probably because they find inspiration, cutting-edge ideas, and novel ways of working while directly engaging with society."
Unclogging Institutional Conduits Between Research and Outreach
"Universities aren’t doing nearly enough to help or reward those who want to engage outside academe. While most institutions pay lip service to outreach, salary and promotion are usually determined by first considering “research productivity,” (i.e., numbers of publications and grants), and second by “teaching effectiveness,” (i.e., number of students and course evaluations). Highly focused pre-tenure faculty are particularly spread painfully thin. The connections needed for meaningful dialogue with decision-makers and the public take time to build, especially if you lack experience. Collectively, we’ve spent hundreds of hours struggling with effects ways to incorporate outreach and engagement in our academic lives. We believe that practical change must come—at least in part—from academic institutions in order to meaningfully expand the role of science outreach."