With science helping to inform societal decisions on everything from national security to keeping us safe in the face of natural disasters, it’s more important than ever for scientists to share the value and impact of Earth and space sciences with policy makers, journalists, and public audiences, such as community groups.
That’s why the American Geophysical Union (AGU) has been helping to equip scientists with the skills they need to effectively communicate with a wide array of audiences in their home communities. Interest in and excitement about such activities have been steadily growing within the scientific community over the past few years, especially with the antiscience rhetoric expressed during and in the aftermath of the 2016 election.
To build on the increased enthusiasm and dedication, AGU launched a new outreach effort called Voices for Science. Modeled on a combination of the Sharing Science and Congressional Visits Days programs, Voices for Science is designed to create a network of skilled and dedicated scientists who are ready to share their science with a variety of important audiences in key locations.
Meet Your New Voices for Science Advocates
The program launched in February with an application process designed to identify a diverse group of individuals from 17 target states and districts in the United States. After reviewing nearly 100 applications, 30 individuals were chosen because of the role their national elected officials play in influencing science policy and funding efforts on Capitol Hill.
The 30 Advocates, as we termed them, were drawn from many disciplines and work in labs, universities, and nonprofits. Each participated in one of the program’s two tracks: policy and communications.
The first cadre of the Voices for Science program includes the following Advocates:
Susan Bates, Climate and Global Dynamics Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Policy Track
Tracy Becker, Southwest Research Institute, Communications Track
Soumaya Belmecheri, Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona, Policy Track
Sarah Benish, University of Maryland, Policy Track
Jennifer Blank, Blue Marble Space Institute of Science/NASA Ames Research Center, Communications Track
Claudia Corona, Jacobson James & Associates, Inc., Communications Track
Kimberly Duong, University of California, Irvine, Policy Track
Robert Goldman, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Policy Track
David Heath, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Policy Track
Denise Hills, Geological Survey of Alabama and AGU Council Member, Policy Track
Tai-Yin Huang, Pennsylvania State University Lehigh Valley/Integrated Energy Solutions for Entrepreneurs, Policy Track
Brendan Kelly, Study of Environmental Arctic Change, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Policy Track
Kathy Kelsey, University of Alaska Anchorage, Communications Track
Rachel Kirpes, University of Michigan, Policy Track
Rafael Loureiro, Blue Marble Space Institute of Science/SETI Institute, Policy Track
Russanne Low, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, Communications Track
Jessica Moerman, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Communications Track
Tashiana Osborne, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, Communications Track
Elizabeth Padilla, Inter American University of Puerto Rico, Communications Track
Joshua Papacek, University of Florida, Policy Track
Sriparna Saha, Rice University, Communications Track
Dork Sahagian, Lehigh University, Policy Track
Meredith Schervish, Carnegie Mellon University, Policy Track
Sanjoy Som, Blue Marble Space Institute of Science, Communications Track
Heidi Steltzer, Fort Lewis College, Communications Track
Sarah Straka, University of Miami, Communications Track
David Trossman, Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences, University of Texas at Austin, Policy Track
Evelyn Valdez-Ward, University of California, Irvine, Communications Track
Jackson Watkins, Colorado State University, Communications Track
Jane Wolken, Alaska Climate Science Center, International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Communications Track
A Plan of Action
The Voices for Science Advocates came to Washington, D. C., on 12–13 April for an intensive skills-building session that included shared sections between the two tracks as well as opportunities to break out and go in depth in their areas of interest.
Policy track participants visited Capitol Hill and participated in nearly 40 meetings with congressional offices; communications track participants learned about working with the media by giving mock interviews, as well as using social media and multimedia to share their science. Each of the 30 Advocates also created, and committed to, an action plan for conducting at least one activity in their community each month for the next year and engaging their peers in some of those activities.
Over the next year, AGU staff will provide hands-on support to the Advocates to help with their various outreach activities. Then, in December 2018, the Advocates will return to Washington, D. C., for the AGU Fall Meeting, where they will participate in additional training and a variety of other activities.
By participating in the Voices for Science program, the Advocates are helping to build public support for Earth and space science, protect critical science funding, and advance federal support for science policy. We look forward to sharing their success stories and lessons learned, and we hope they will serve as an inspiration for other AGU members to embark on their own science advocacy journeys.
—Dana D. Rehm (email: [email protected]; @AGU_SciComm), Senior Vice President, Marketing, Communications and Digital Media, AGU; and Alexandra Shultz (@AGUSciPolicy), Vice President, Public Affairs, AGU