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Leopold class of 2011

Academic Engagement in Public and Political Discourse: Establishing the Rules of the Game

Hello everyone,

On Sept. 27th Andy Hoffman shared on the Leopold listserv an article that he wrote stemming from ideas generated at the Leopold Fellows workshop in Palo Alto several years ago.
Michigan Journal of Sustainability: Academic Engagement in Public and Political Discourse: Establishing the Rules of the Game
I think this article strikes at the very core of what we are hopefully “about” as science communicators, having gone through the Leopold training. As such, I hope this article sparks some discussion among us, and I thought I would try to get the balling roll with one observation.

I very much appreciate the 12 Rules of Engagement cited in the article, and Rule #2 caught my eye in particular: “Recognize the rules of academia. An academic scientist can best enter the public debate from the security of tenure. Junior faculty members must remain aware that the academic model is an apprenticeship model, and young scientists must earn their place within the academic community through tenure before engaging in public discourse. The route to tenure is still based on academic scholarship, not public engagement. While one may choose to make brief forays into the public debate before tenure, public engagement should increase as one’s career advances.”

I think this is closely related to a special session that Leopold fellows put together for the 2012 AAAS on The Beauty of Benefits of Escaping the Ivory Tower (see this Leopold 3.0 post). In that session we talked about confronting and removing institutional barriers to public engagement within academe…..

Can we in fact engender change within our universities? Can we in fact reinvent how beans are counted? Is it possible for institutions to recognize outreach (including public and political discourse) as a form of scholarship, scholarship which for junior faculty can use in a small way toward tenure? What are appropriate levels of engagement activity for junior faculty (recognizing of course that not one size fits all and that institutional cultures are different)?

Scholarly organizations are at least beginning to recognize such discourse (e.g., the American Geophysical Union, the Association of American Geographers, etc.).

The Beauty and Benefits of Escaping the Ivory Tower

Dear Leopold Fellows,

I’d like to share the results of a Leopold 2011 cohort project, which was to put together this special symposium at AAAS 2013 in Boston:

“The Beauty and Benefits of Escaping the Ivory Tower”
There are many unresolved policy problems in society, such as high unemployment and economic competitiveness, oil and gas versus alternative energy, proper stances against nuclear proliferation, public health issues, climate change, and the loss of biodiversity, all of which increasingly revolve around science. And yet, less than two percent of Congress has any professional background in science. America remains inactive about the ramifications of critical societal challenges such as climate change, environmental hazards, and living sustainably. Environmental issues are local no more, and solutions cannot remain provincial. Scientists must become envoys of knowledge that is global: laws of physics, functioning of the atmosphere, and the cadence of waxing and waning of biodiversity. Indeed, science is now part of an unavoidable and contentious public discussion on these issues, and we need it to catalyze solutions. Increasingly, scientists who are communicators are moving into positions of leadership, engaging with society, and changing their academic institutions from within. The speakers, all early- to mid-career scientists and fellows of the Leopold Leadership Program run by Stanford University, will present research and case stories of effective communication of science to policy-makers and the public, including specific lessons learned and suggested paths forward to positively change academic culture. A special focus is on early-career scientists and graduate students.

You can download all the presentation files and related papers from the session (41 Mb zip) + a Google doc + a Twitter Storify created by Jack Williams. The discussions live on via the Twitter hashtag #AAASbeit which we will try to keep going well beyond the meeting.

Thanks to all who made this session possible, including Liz Neeley for her skillful moderation of the discussion and social media strategy.

Two related blog posts that you may enjoy are:
Bridging the Gap between Science and Policy Makers: Whither Geospatial? which sums up some of the many things that I’ve I learned from my Leopold experience and is my attempt to pass it on to my world of geographic information science.

Liz Neeley’s The Beauty and Benefits of a Network

Helping colleagues to put knowledge to action

Greetings colleagues,

Here at Esri we’ve now completed the Oceans Summit which was the company’s first-ever high-level strategic workshop focused on new thinking and approaches for ocean science and resource management. I reached out to Martin Bloxham of Barefoot strategies for help with implementing the PMI-OPV technique (plus-minus-interesting, other point of view) that he taught the 2011 Leopold cohort. I had wanted to use this technique for the breakout groups at this Oceans Summit. I can’t tell you how much of a success it was! Some of the scientists were a bit shell-shocked, saying that they had never been in breakout groups that went so smoothly and were so productive! It was fun to teach and fun to see it in action. And from Esri’s standpoint, we got exactly the feedback that we needed.

You can see an overview of the meeting via this blog post, Esri Convenes Historic Oceans Summit, and a summary of the results of the PMI exercise at How is GIS Meeting the Needs of Ocean (and other) Sciences? Plus, Minus, Interesting…..

The PPT that I used to teach the techniques, based on Martin’s is available at http://dusk.geo.orst.edu/Pickup/Esri/ESRI_PMI_OPV.pptx [19.2 Mb]

This is so much fun being able to put into direct practice what we learned at Leopold!