Public Engagement

AAAS Offers Prize for Top Public Intellectual

July 16, 2015 786

Crackerjack science communicators (and their partisans) have until August 15 to submit names and CVs as nominees for the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Award for Public Engagement with Science.

The prize, established in 1987, recognizes scientists and engineers who are making outstanding contributions to the “popularization of science.” Winners receive $5,000 and a trip to the AAAS’s annual meeting to be publicly honored.

Past winners have ranged from public intellectuals like astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, public servants like former NOAA chief and marine biologist Jane Lubchenco, explorers like oceanographer Robert D. Ballard and even inanimate initiatives like the Science Theater Outreach project. While the prize description specifically notes that it includes “social and behavioral sciences and biomedical fields” (and the prize itself was renamed from the long-sanding Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology), generally absent from the list of past winners are those trained as social or behavioral scientists (the late anthropologist William L. Rathje being a notable exception). Of course, given the communication, education and policy focus of so many winners, the skills of social science are by no means absent.

Selection criteria revolve around reaching the public. AAAS specifies that winners will be scientists or engineers who, “while working in their fields, have also contributed substantially to the public’s engagement with science or technology.” That engagement can be through books, mass-media articles, lectures, exhibitions or broadcast, with the proviso that “only materials produced for general audiences, as opposed to professional or trade audiences, will be considered.” And, reminds AAAS, general audiences quite likely include women, minorities, individuals with disabilities, and senior citizens.

While having reached critical mass in public engagement could take the better part of a career, individuals who have been in their current field for less than seven years, including post-docs, might want to look into the AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science.
For more details on prize and its ground rules, visit www.aaas.org/PublicEngagementAward. For nominations or information, contact Dione Rossiter at (202) 326-6645 or drossite@aaas.org.


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