21ST Century Scientists Working Group

February 6th 2015

The 21st Century Scientist Conference: Inclusion, Innovation, and Incentives

JOIN US ON FRIDAY, APRIL 17TH FOR A ONE-DAY CONFERENCE DEVOTED TO THE CRAFT OF COMMUNICATION, AND CRAFTING A COMMUNITY.

Preliminary schedule:

  • 8am: Registration
  • 8:30am: Opening remarks
  • 9-10:30am: Workshop on the craft of communication.
  • 10:30am-12pm: Workshop on crafting a community.
  • 12-1pm: Panel (lunch included!) on alternative and traditional science careers.
  • 1-2pm: Free time, networking, finishing up earlier workshop projects, booths for local boundary and outreach organizations.
  • 2-5pm: Extended workshop with our featured speaker Dr. Miriam Goldstein on working with politicians to advance scientific agendas.

Registration information – as well as early bird and student pricing – to come soon!

Current science stereotypes are harmful to underrepresented people who are or would like to become scientists and science writers, and thus hinders their recruitment, retention, and advancement. These stereotypes persist because scientists who wish to engage as part of their job, and scientists who wish to train to join alternative, non-academic or non-industry careers, are provided with no support system, training, or incentives to do so. While outreach-focused courses do occasionally exist within science departments, they are taught infrequently. Further, recent research on science faculty views on outreach suggests that many view outreach as a threat to their reputations as serious scientists (Johnson et al., 2014). Even in a study of funded NSFs that sought to assess the broader impacts criterion, a percentage of funded grants studied contained no broader impacts, or broader impacts that only involved general scientific training of students (Kamenetsky, 2013).

The University of Illinois 21st Century Scientist Working Group, or 21Sci, plans to change the culture around public engagement in science through a focus on inclusive community, innovation in the conceptualization of the 21st Century Scientist, and positive incentives for engagement. We identify four main goals:

  1. Develop consistent training for scientists who want to improve the skills necessary to become engaged scientists and/or pursue non-academic careers, including professional science writing.
  2. Create community to support like-minded scientists to operate against the negative culture of disengagement, and reconceptualize the role of the scientist in today’s society.
  3. Increase underrepresented minorities and women in science, science writing, and as the target audience for science writing, outreach, and engagement.
  4. Advocate for new incentives within academic science, particularly around promotion and tenure, to make engaging with science writers, outreach efforts, and boundary organizations easier for practicing scientists.

Our working group and journal club meetings have attracted faculty, staff, and students from across the STEM disciplines, agriculture, and journalism, as well as administrators in the Office for the Vice Chancellor of Research, the Office for Public Engagement, and the Extension School. Our goal for this semester is to develop strategies for strengthening our relationship with boundary organizations like the Extension School, as well as leveraging these relationships to begin to effect change at higher levels of university administration.

Our goal is a lofty one – change the culture at a major R1 institution – but our belief is that if we focus our efforts at the University of Illinois and the surrounding region, we can create a model and momentum for similar change elsewhere.

 

 

References

Johnson DR, Ecklund EH and Lincoln AE. Narratives of Science Outreach in Elite Contexts of Academic Science. Science Communication 2014:36;81-105.

Kamenetsky J. Opportunities for impact: Statistical analysis of the National Science Foudnation’s broader impacts criterion. Science and Public Policy 2013:40;72-84.

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