The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed science to the forefront of public attention. For many Americans, following daily reports about the novel coronavirus represents the first time they are seeing science and scientists operate in “real time”. This experience is new for scientists too. Scientists are not trained to engage the public, despite the fact that scientific research is put to work daily to help improve lives, address the needs of diverse communities, and solve problems at a national and global scale.
This proposal offers a set of actions to give federally-funded Ph.D. students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), specific training to enable them to engage effectively with the public. In turn, this will increase trust in and support for the scientific enterprise, drive stronger interest in STEM careers, set the stage for faster response to threats, and build a stronger, science-driven U.S. economy. Lastly, at a local level, taxpayers will benefit directly as more scientists are trained to engage regularly and meaningfully with schools, community institutions, and local governments.