Advancing public engagement at the Ecological Society of America

July 31, 2017

With the growing concern for global and local environmental issues, ecologists in academia, agencies and the nonprofit sector are increasingly interested in learning how to more effectively communicate to and learn from the policymakers and other public audiences. High-level science administrators from the National Science Foundation, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Sciences are now calling for ecologists and other scientists become active players in bridging gaps between science and society.

"Over the past decade, there has been a trend towards a greater recognition that public engagement is not a burden or 'add-on,' but rather a healthy part of the scientific process," said Nalini Nadkarni, vice-president for education and diversity for the Ecological Society of America and professor at the University of Utah. "Ecologists are now realizing that fostering relationships with the public can help their own understanding of the natural world."

However, ecologists encounter little or no training to communicate to people outside of academia at any time in their careers. Although a few formal science communication programs have emerged, they have reached only a relatively small cadre of ecologists. No central database exists for ecologists to benefit from the experience of others who have been successful in engaging the public.

This year, the annual meeting of the ESA in Portland, Oregon, Aug. 6-12, 2017, will be the locus of multiple efforts to train and connect ecologists who are deeply interested in public engagement of their research. Special sessions that feature case studies of successful engagement events, approaches and protocols will be offered.

Melissa Kenney, University of Maryland, will offer a session titled "Engagement 2.0: Increasing our Collective Impact." In this session, Nadkarni will present on the STEM Ambassador Program she directs, funded by the National Science Foundation (2016-2018) to train University of Utah scientists to carry out public engagement of underserved public audiences in the venues of community groups. Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and the former administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from 2009-2013, will speak on the moral and political imperatives to bridge science and society.

Other ecologists from across the country will describe their approaches and practices with ESA members. Emily Therese Cloyd of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) will chair a workshop on tools for ecologists to engage the public, based on effective workshops offered by AAAS. Alison Mize, a member of the Science Office of ESA, will offer a workshop on how ecologists can participate in public policy and communicate with Congress.

Nadkarni and Kenney have also organized a social event at the meeting to bring together ecologists involved with these nascent but strong efforts to engage with people outside of academia. They hope that attendees will come away from these sessions aware of the growing value of public engagement as they provide and receive training and join the network of ecologists who view public engagement as a critical part of the scientific endeavor.

What is ESA?

The Ecological Society of America (ESA) is professional society of over 10,000 members who "conduct research, teach, and use ecological science to address environmental issues." The annual meeting attracts over 4,000 scientists.

Goals for emphasizing public engagement at the ESA ConferencePublic engagement activities at the ESA Conference Additionally, plenary speakers will include the topic of public engagement in their talks.
-end-
Questions related to the events can be addressed to nalini.nadkarni@utah.edu>Nalini Nadkarni, vice president for education and diversity of the Ecological Society of America and professor at the University of Utah.

University of Utah

Related Public Policy Articles from Brightsurf:

Social media can guide public pandemic policy: QUT research
As global cases of COVID-19 fast approach 50 million, a team of Australian, Afghan, Iranian and Italian researchers examined more than 35,000 tweets and say social media analytics can capture the attitudes and perceptions of the public during a pandemic.

Why are patient and public voices absent in COVID-19 policy-making?
Patient and public voices were ''regrettably'' absent in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, but must now move centre stage, argue experts in The BMJ today.

COVID-19 antibody testing needn't be perfect to guide public health and policy decisions
While it's too soon to use COVID-19 antibody testing to issue 'immunity passports', antibody tests that are available today are good enough to inform decisions about public health and relaxing social distancing interventions, says an international group of infectious disease and public health experts in Science Immunology today.

Growing volume of gun policy research creates basis for policy decisions
While research about many gun policies still lags, a surging number of studies now provides the evidence needed to make sound decisions on policies designed to reduce homicides and injuries while protecting individuals' rights.

Nephrology and Public Policy Committee (NPPC) aims to intensify research activity
Epidemiological and clinical research and public policy in Europe are generally considered to be comprehensive and successful - and the European Renal Association-European Dialysis and Transplant Association (ERA-EDTA) is playing a key role in the field of nephrology research.

Autonomous vehicles could be an environmental boon or disaster, depending on public policy
Widespread use of autonomous vehicles (AVs) could either massively increase or drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions depending, in large part, on public policy, according to new research from Princeton University.

Educational outreach, public policy changes needed to reduce health hazards at nail salons
The nail salon industry has seen rapid growth within the last 20 years, becoming increasingly popular among women of all ages.

Tragic death of baby highlights need for vitamin D public health policy change
UK vitamin D supplementation policy needs to change to protect the health and lives of babies, pregnant women and dark skinned individuals, say University of Birmingham researchers.

Mass. public safety, public health agencies collaborate to address the opioid epidemic
A new study shows that public health and public safety agencies established local, collaborative programs in Massachusetts to connect overdose survivors and their personal networks with addiction treatment, harm reduction, and other community support services following a non-fatal overdose.

Minority public managers prefer integrating social equity, traditional public values
Minority public managers place more emphasis on both traditional values, like efficiency and effectiveness, and social equity when compared with their white counterparts, according to a new study that includes a University of Kansas researcher and two fellow KU alumni.

Read More: Public Policy News and Public Policy Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.