Fulbright Commission and Rita Allen Foundation launch Civic Science Fellowship

The US-UK Fulbright Commission, in partnership with the Rita Allen Foundation, is excited to announce the launch of a Civic Science award open to British emerging leaders in the field of science communication – either as scholars or practitioners.

Science has the potential to help us solve the “wicked problems” facing the world today – from poverty and climate change to cancer and cybersecurity. But there is also the risk that new discoveries such as genetic engineering and artificial intelligence could cause humanity great harm. This is why it is so important that scientists and technologists involve the wider public in discussion about the ethical, social and political ramifications of emerging science.

But how to do this at a time of personalised news environments and political polarisation? 

To catalyse widespread dialogue between scientists and citizens, a partnership of civic institutions, media organisations, scientific associations, and foundations is coming together to create a new programme, the Civic Science Fellowship.

The UK Civic Science Fellow will be embedded at the University of Texas Austin’s Center for Media Engagement while, at the same time, playing an active role in the pilot cohort of civic science fellows.

  • At UT Austin, they will lead a research project on one salient aspect of how scientists communicate with the public and how the public perceives science. The US-UK Fulbright Commission is particularly interested in proposals that will focus on audiences traditionally underrepresented in the public debates around science.
  • As a member of the fellowship cohort, they will be building networks and looking to transfer knowledge about civic science across those networks through collaboration between individuals and institutions. The Commission is particularly interested in proposals that highlight ways in which the convening of different international perspectives can further a culture of civic science.

Critically, the US-UK Fulbright Commission is looking to recruit an emerging leader in science communication who can begin their engagement with the Civic Science Fellowship in mid-February—whether on the ground in the US or remotely from the UK:

  • The inaugural Civic Science Fellows convening will take place in Seattle at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in mid-February. This high-profile convening, held immediately before the annual gathering of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), will provide an opportunity for Fellows, host partners and experts in science engagement research and practice to meet each other, extend professional networks, develop individual and collective emerging Civic Science work.
  • Across the spring months, fellows will be invited to take advantage of other special opportunities such as an invitation-only National Geographic Storytellers workshop and a conference on “public deliberation and science” hosted by the Kettering Foundation.

Although we are ideally looking for a fellow who could move to the US in February, we recognise that this will be difficult for many candidates. What is critical for us is that the successful candidate be able to start their engagement with the initiative in mid-February so that they can attend the inaugural Seattle event and start to build the face-to-face and digital connections necessary for them to take part in the work of the fellowship cohort. The latest we would expect the UK Civic Science Fellow to move physically to Austin would be start of the autumn semester in August 2020.

This is a unique opportunity not just to further original research in science communication but also to help shape the future of civic science on both sides of the Atlantic in the company of the world’s leading scientific institutions. For more information on how to apply, please visit the award page.

The following organisations are among the Fellowship’s founding partners:

  • The Rita Allen Foundation invests in transformative ideas in their earliest stages to leverage their growth and promote breakthrough solutions to significant problems. It enables early-career biomedical scholars to do pioneering research, seeds innovative approaches to fostering informed civic engagement, and develops knowledge and networks to build the effectiveness of the philanthropic sector.
  • The Kavli Foundation is dedicated to advancing science for the benefit of humanity, promoting public understanding of scientific research, and supporting scientists and their work. The Kavli Foundation will support a Civic Science Fellow working with a group of scientific societies, including the American Society for Cell BiologyResearch!America, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
  • The Science in Society Funder Collaborative is a collaboration of funders with a shared interest in the relationship between science and society. The initial cohort of collaborative members include the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Gordon & Betty Moore FoundationThe Kavli Foundation, and the Rita Allen Foundation.
  • The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science is a leader in communication training and research. Since 2009, the Center has used innovative techniques to sharpen the communication skills of over 7,000 scientists and medical personnel, and exposed over 26,000 professionals to the techniques and value of science communication for profoundly improving our society.
  • The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the Science family of journals. It aims to “advance science, engineering, and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people.” It has extensive programs in policy analysis, diversifying the science and technology workforce, public engagement, science education, and international affairs.
  • The Science Philanthropy Alliance is a community of funders who work together to inspire new, emerging, and current philanthropists to dedicate a portion of their philanthropy to basic science. Alliance members act both as champions and advisors to other philanthropists to ensure more private funding is earmarked for the kinds of research initiatives that have led to the scientific, technological and medical breakthroughs that fuel our technology and information-driven economy of the 21st century.
  • WGBH Boston is America’s preeminent public broadcaster and the largest producer of PBS content for TV and the Web, including MasterpieceAntiques RoadshowFrontlineNovaAmerican ExperienceArthur, and more than a dozen other primetime, lifestyle, and children’s series. WGBH also is a major source of programs for public radio, a leader in educational multimedia, and a pioneer in technologies and services that make media accessible to deaf, hard of hearing, blind, and visually impaired audiences. WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors: Emmys, Peabodys, duPont-Columbia Awards, and Oscars.

The Civic Science Fellows programme is in formation. To follow its development and see when fellowship positions become available, please see the Rita Allen website.