February 17, 2019

The Public Face of Science Initiative

Posted by Laura Guertin

During a Communicating Science seminar at the 2019 AAAS Annual Meeting, I attended a breakout session led by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. I learned about a program I was not aware of prior to the meeting, and I thought others would be interested in their Public Face of Science initiative.

The Public Face of Science is dedicated to exploring the complex and evolving relationship between scientists and the public. This three-year project engages the expertise of a broad range of leaders in communication, law, humanities, the arts, journalism, public affairs, and the physical, social, and life sciences. — American Academy of Arts & Sciences website

According to their website, the primary objectives of the three-year Public Face of Science are:

  1. Raising awareness in the scientific and science communication communities on how the public currently views science and how they encounter it;
  2. Suggesting research considerations for public polling organizations, scientific societies, and social scientists for collecting additional data on public attitudes and encounters with science; and
  3. Improving the practice of science communication and engagement.

Their work has included workshops, discussion groups, collecting research, and conducting outreach. Two reports have been published, presenting how science is perceived in America, based primarily on previously reported polling data from NORC General Social Survey (GSS), the National Science Board Science and Engineering Index (NSB SEI), Pew Research Center, ScienceCounts, and Research!America.

The first report, Perceptions of Science in America, was released in February 2018 and examines the current state of trust in science and scientists. The second report, Encountering Science in America, was released in February 2019 and looks to improve understanding and awareness of the complex landscape of encounters with science among communication and engagement. The third and final report will present recommendations for building the capacity for effective science communication and engagement. Free online text and PDF versions of the first two reports, along with downloadable images for use, are available on the report web pages.

If you don’t have time to read these short, data-packed reports, then you can see the top three takeaways they have summarized below. Although some of this information you may already be familiar with, I’m sure that everyone will find something new to learn in these reports – and most importantly, to share with others.