January 14, 2021
In 2019, I had the amazing opportunity to join AGU’s Voices for Science advocacy program. I saw that the calls were open for the next cohort to receive mentoring and training from the AGU Sharing Science and Science Policy staff, and I thought I would help promote the call for applicants by resharing my blog post that summarized my year-long experience. I was surprised (and disappointed in myself) that I never did a wrap-up post on the experience (yikes)! But I’m thinking that’s because you are never done as a Voice for Science, and the community is there with you long after the formal program. Let me explain…
The program provides scientists interested in #SciComm and outreach with specialized training to hone their skills.
— AGU Science Policy (@AGUSciPolicy) January 13, 2021
I joined the Media and Communications cohort for the 2019-2020 year. You may ask why I applied for the Voices for Science program in the first place, especially when I already tweet about science (@guertin) and am a blogger here in the AGU Blogosphere and on my personal/professional blog Journeys of Dr. G. As someone that has a passion for science outreach to non-STEM audiences, and my teaching is focused on introductory-level Earth science courses for non-science majors, I know there is always more to learn about messaging and how to engage different audiences. In addition, all of the “scicomm” I do is a solo activity – blogging I do on my own, preparing talks for local audiences I do by myself, etc. I was looking for a community to be a part of, a community of individuals that share the same passion, that share ideas and strategies, that share successes and failures in science communication.
And yes, I found that and more through the Voices for Science program!
I wrote up three blog posts at the very start of the program, during the orientation: the journey begins, the year ahead, and getting started with the take-home message. Although I left the orientation with a master plan for what I would do for monthly engagement activities, that quickly changed with various opportunities that became available (being flexible I have found is key to engagement!). I worked with my campus library to host STEM-themed postcard advocacy events. I did Twitter threads with multiple tweets focused on a celebration and a hashtag, like #WorldOceanDay and my 50 Day Countdown to the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. I also stepped out of my comfort zone and started organizing larger campus events, such as a full-day Climate Impact Teach-In. The Voices for Science community was wonderful in providing ideas, and even two VFS advocates came to my campus to help with the event!
Being a part of the Voices for Science program has also really helped me take a step back and think about different ways to engage in science communication. Even during this time of social distancing during COVID, I’ve been using the front door of my house for science and hosted biweekly virtual podcast discussions on nature/sustainability.
And the opportunities! The confidence-building! My local science outreach expanded to a much larger stage, being able to participate in the StoryCollider event at AGU Fall Meeting 2019 and Ignite@AGU 2020. My VFS advocates and I are always sharing opportunities for science engagement on the AGU Connect platform (we have our own special community for participants from all the VFS years), and I have to credit the monthly phone check-ins during my “official” year in the program as making an impact for my connection not just to advocates in my region but to AGU. Yet I still keep in touch with members of my cohort and have participated in events with them (shout-out to Dr. Adrienne Oakley and our participation in SoapBox Science Philadelphia!).
And could there be a more important time to be a Voice for Science? I arrived in Washington DC earlier in the day before my orientation started in 2019, and I strolled along the Tidal Basin to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. This quote was on one of the walls – and I can’t think of words that have more meaning than they do today.
If anyone were to ask me why should I be a member of the AGU organization, the Voices for Science and overall Sharing Science/Science Policy programs are absolutely reasons I would cite!
But don’t just take my word for it… why not apply to participate and find out for yourself just how valuable the Voices for Science program is to you as an individual, to your community, and to our discipline? I had no way of knowing exactly where my journey as a Voices for Science advocate would take me (and is still taking me), and I’m absolutely a stronger scientist, educator, and communicator because of my participation.