November 22, 2013

Speak science to me: AGU’s expert outreach network

Posted by Meg Gilley

Let me tell you…

A scientist gives an interview about his research

James Balog gives an interview about his work

“People should know about this!”

That comment, or a variation on it (“More people should know about this!”; “Why don’t people know about this?”) is one that comes up often when talking about science. It’s a phrase I used a lot when I was still studying marine invertebrates, and it was one of the main reasons I went into science communication and outreach.

Whether it’s about an incredible discovery, the importance of a line of research to our well-being, or the relevance of scientific information to developing policy—science and its value need to be shared more widely so that people can know about it. And scientists themselves can be important communicators of that information.


Introducing AEON: more than just a fun acronym

AGU’s expert outreach network (AEON) came about as a way of offering AGU members who wanted to share their science more opportunities to do so, and giving them more support in that communication. Many of our members are already active science communicators; many more are interested in reaching out but haven’t yet found the right opportunity. AEON is a way for our scientists to connect with legislators, reporters, K-12 educators and students, and the general public.

For example, AEON members, at our request and with our support, have:

–          Met with and/or written to legislators (about specific issues of science and policy and also to offer themselves as a resource on scientific topics).

–          Written letters to the editor and online comments correcting scientific misinformation.

–          Reached out to local community centers to give public talks.

–          Written op-eds about their work and its importance to their community and beyond.

–          Worked with local groups to address laws that threaten science education.

–          Written blog posts on science communication.

–          Interviewed other scientists and shared iReport videos on their work.

–          Worked with reporters on stories about natural hazards, climate, and other topics.


AGU staff lead a workshop on how to communicate with policymakers

AGU staff lead a workshop on how to communicate with policymakers

Sharing science: more than just AEON

We want our scientists to have the resources they need to share their science whenever they want to; so we’ve developed a set of webpages, Sharing Science, bursting with links, guidelines, tips, and templates on how to contact legislators or inform policy, work with reporters, support education, use social media, give public talks—and more.

Also, this year at Fall Meeting the AGU booth in the exhibit hall will host an “Ask an Expert” area where experts in everything from working with policymakers to making videos will be available for an hour at a time to answer questions and give advice.


…Or maybe you can tell me

One of the questions we ask AEON members is, “Why does sharing your science with a wider audience matter to you?”

Here are just a few of their answers:

  • I would like to impact policy and educate the public to create a better future.
  • It’s about spreading the word back to the public on what we do in scientific research and illustrate how it benefits us all…Then the public and policy makers alike can see what I do, and that it makes a difference for them.
  • The more people who are aware of the risks [of earthquakes] and are prepared, the better!
  • [It] helps me to become a better scientist because it forces me to synthesize and provide meaning to my work.  I have found that the public is also very interested in science and loves to hear about what I do, which helps feed my enthusiasm for what I do. It is a win-win situation.
  • I believe the ultimate goal of science is to serve society and an important way to do this is via direct communication with the public.

Enough said.


–  Olivia Ambrogio, AGU Strategic Communications Specialist