I am no longer a full-time professional in the academic world. I am a policy advocate and communicator who understands the value of broad scientific communication. However, prior to choosing this path, I sought out communication and outreach opportunities in addition to my academic responsibilities.
Science is more than just publications and grants. However, until recently, the scientific community at large would likely argue with that assertion. The classic model of “publish or perish” was (is) the driving force for everything that we do as scientists. While that largely hasn’t changed, what has changed is the amount of time and effort that scientists are putting into other areas of science outside of those core tenants that are primarily responsible for our success.
So why are we branching out into other areas that may or likely do not directly affect our careers (i.e., most academic institutions don’t care if you blog)? Because we understand that if you don’t reach out, no one outside of our bubble will care. And, if no one cares, everyone (and thing) suffers.
I recently served as a Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Fellow with the National Academy of Sciences. This fellowship placed me at the Koshland Science Museum here in Washington, D.C., as a science outreach specialist. The Koshland Museum stresses interactive learning in a museum setting and I was responsible for creating and facilitating exhibits to promote science education to students and the public.
Reaching out to the public is a core tenant of science, but getting to students early is also incredibly important. Recently I was fortunate enough to serve as a science expert for the National Ocean Sciences Bowl. In addition to a buzzer-style competition where teams of high school students compete against one another in a round-robin elimination style event, teams must also act as stakeholders to “testify” before a mock Congress on a piece of legislation. Events such as this are crucial to get students involved in science at an early age.