I am not on the tenure track. No news there, I write about it a lot. This is not a post to beat that point home, rather to talk about what I’m doing now – sharing science.
I stated previously that I was doing interviews for TT positions. As part of that, I took a step back to think about what I really wanted to get out of a career in science and where my interests lay. The Venn diagram to the left is the result of that assessment. As an academic, I taught and performed research, as a Knauss Fellow I worked in science policy and legislation, and as a NAS Fellow I worked in science communication and outreach. There is overlap in all these worlds, and while possible to find that magic spot in the middle, overlap between 2/3 is more obtainable. I’d say I’m currently doing the equivalent of 2/3 but my world encompass all these bubbles.
I currently work for the American Geophysical Union, a scientific non-profit devoted to promoting discovery in the Earth and space sciences. They’re basically to Earth and space scientists what ESA is to ecologists. The fact that I’m a biologist work for an Earth and space society doesn’t really matter (my boss is a biologist too). What’s important is what we do – we share science. My position is a Specialist in the Sharing Science program.Our mission statement is: Helping scientists effectively share their work with broader audiences to promote the widespread awareness of Earth and space science and its value.* When asked by someone, “What do you do?”, my answer is, “I do policy and communication work for a scientific nonprofit.”** Dig a little deeper, and my main priorities are to help scientists better communicate what they do to non-scientists. This is especially important because outreach and communication are being incorporated into funding (e.g. largely focus on NSF Broader Impacts) and T&P considerations. No matter the situation, scientists (and anyone for that matter) need to know how to communicate what they do to people outside of the field. Our office is here to help.***
Taking science to non-scientists is a necessary part of the job. Some academics are actively engaged in this endeavor, others not so much. I am happy to be the medium between scientists and non-scientists; however, there are only so many of us. Scientists must possess even the most basic tools to get the conversation started. That’s what we do (along with other great organizations like COMPASS and AAAS). Policy, communication, and outreach are not just my hobbies anymore. They’re my job.
*We’re not just confined to Earth and space sciences. We actually held a workshop at ESA this past year and will likely work with other societies in the future.
**Crafting my message is also a big part of what I do. I can’t say that I help scientists to tell people what they do when I myself cannot explain what I do. So, while I tailor this message to different audiences, this is my stock response.
***If you are a member of AGU, join our Sharing Science Network! No matter your career stage or outreach experience,our network provides the tools to make you a better communicator.