National dialogue on science and religion is most relevant and effective when scientists are engaged in the conversation at multiple levels. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is well-suited to equip scientists for this engagement—especially in light of its new Transformation Initiative that seeks to involve more members in volunteer activities and public engagement. Many scientist volunteers may feel eager, but unprepared, to discuss science with a largely religious public. Utilizing AAAS’ expertise and the latest science communications techniques, the AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion (DoSER) program proposes a three-year project to assist scientists in efforts to mitigate religion-based hindrances to the reception and support of science.
The value of this project can be seen in results of a January 2015 Pew Research Center/AAAS survey that found both citizens and scientists are less upbeat about the scientific enterprise than they were 5 years ago, and have sharply divergent views on certain science-society topics. A communications deficit between scientists and the public has broad implications for science funding and a host of societal issues. A survey from February 2015 found that only 41% of AAAS scientists “often” or “occasionally” engage non-experts through various communication channels. Communication strategies can foster cross-community conversations that explore potentially challenging issues.
Researchers at the frontlines of discovery are an underutilized resource because many are unclear about how to communicate their findings effectively with citizens whose perspectives are strongly influenced by their religious values. This project will provide vital engagement tools and professionally facilitated workshops for scientists. It will build upon AAAS-DoSER’s successful efforts in public engagement to increase opportunities for scientists and members of the public to participate in constructive dialogue.