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Making Science Matter: Center Co-Director Joins NAS Team to Engage Public with Big Issues

National Academy of SciencesHow are important scientific topics translated and understood by the public, and how are they translated into meaningful public policy? What is the social impact of translating and framing crucial science topics -- including climate change and food safety -- in media, social science, and communication? A new group aims to find out.

Center co-director Matt Nisbet was recently appointed to serve on the Roundtable on Public Interfaces of the Life Sciences, a new National Academies committee launched this week.

The charge of the group is to study and evaluate research, issues and challenges in science communication, public engagement and policymaker decision-making with a focus on the life sciences, broadly defined.

Specific topics and issues likely to be addressed include climate change, stem cell research, the teaching of evolution in schools, food biotechnology, the anti-vaccine movement, and debates over emerging research in neuroscience and genomic medicine.

The Roundtable is a collaborative body with expert representatives in philanthropy and strategic communication as well as academics. Additional members include distinguished Deans and faculty from top universities including Stanford, Cornell, MIT, and Penn; the CEO of the American Association for the Advancement; and senior executives from a range of corporations, government agencies and non-profits including Monsanto, Dupont, Ogilvy & Mather, and the National Institutes of Health.

The work of the committee includes organizing and hosting "state of the science" workshops on these topics and others; and the authoring of consensus and synthesis reports and statements.

With the help of the  Sharon Metcalf, Nisbet worked with the National Academies staff this spring to start a formal SOC Dean's Internship to place students each semester at the National Academies to assist with the work of the committee.