21ST Century Scientists Working Group

November 11th 2014

Welcome to the 21st Century Scientists Working Group!

Welcome! We are the 21st Century Scientists Working Group, a group of faculty, staff, and students at the University of Illinois interested in public engagement in science, and changing the way scientists form their identities. Below you’ll find the abstract for our successful Focal Point proposal (awarded in 2014). Our other pages — Events (where you’ll find announcements for speakers and our monthly journal club) ¬†and Conference (a spring one-day workshop and practicum, inaugural event in 2015!) — are coming soon.

Other ways to stay connected to us:

  • Facebook page: This is where we also post announcements and events.
  • 21sci listserv: This is our official listserv, another mechanism for announcements. Anyone can be on this list.
  • Slack: This is our official backchannel, where we have more casual conversations and delegate tasks, so as not to overwhelm our official Fb and listserv channels. The Slack backchannel is currently set to be open to anyone with an @illinois.edu address.

Our weekly meetings are every Tuesday at noon in 350A ERML.

Training the 21st Century Scientist at the University of Illinois


Kathryn Clancy, Assistant Professor, Anthropology

William Hammack, Professor, Donald and Dolores Morris Faculty Scholar, Chemical Engineering

Daniel Simons, Professor, Psychology

Graduate students:

Jessica Hekman, Animal Sciences

Daniel Urban, Program in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology



Public engagement should be one of the core missions of a 21st century scientist. As science sections of newspapers disappear and science cable channels turn their attention to reality television, the public face of science is shrinking. The University of Illinois exceeds its peers in the many local engagement activities it hosts. But what is the overall narrative for these activities, and do they utilize best practices research to maximize effectiveness? Are these activities used as training opportunities for students? And to what extent does the university promote or incentivize public engagement? Our project resists the notion that effective and successful scientists are siloed in ivory towers, working ever-greater hours with fewer payoffs. We contend that a public R1 university should incentivize rebudgeting some of that time towards improving public understanding of science, and that they should also use engagement as an opportunity for recruitment, retention, and advancement of underrepresented scientists.

Thus, we have developed the 21st Century Scientist Working Group with three goals. First, provide opportunities for the campus community to expand its knowledge of science communication through a monthly journal club and regular seminars with outside experts. Second, develop a conference to encourage engagement with the latest science communication research, including a practicum. Third, develop a graduate minor in science communication that draws on current and new coursework to help students learn how to understand and negotiate controversy, work with diverse populations, and learn interpersonal and communication skills that best engage the public at local and global levels.