The American Association for the Advancement of Science has announced that it will establish a new fellowship programme in community engagement to professionalise the role in the scientific community.
The programme, which begins recruitment in 2016, will provide training and professional development for up to 18 fellows, who will consist of both new entrants to the field and current community engagement managers from scientific associations or large research collaborations.
The first cohort of fellows will commence in January 2017 for an initial one-year period, funded by a $772,995 (£500,000) grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a philanthropic non-profit organisation.
Josh Freeman, senior advisor for multimedia strategies at AAAS and founder of Trellis, a digital communication arm of the company, said that community engagement managers are the “catalyst and glue of many science and technology communities” and, with the rise of large-scale scientific collaboration, scientists are increasingly looking for easy ways to communicate and collaborate with other researchers.
A recent AAAS membership survey found that about eight in 10 respondents saw a need for better ways to connect with other scientists online.
“They are the face of the organisation to its members and play a critical role in the community’s success,” he said.
Josh Greenberg, programme director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, added that community engagement professionals perform a broad range of activities but there is “still no well-defined career path or set of professional development tools for individuals in this field”.
“As a collaborative enterprise, scientific discovery requires vibrant, engaged communities where researchers come together to share ideas, debate approaches, craft common standards and identify ways forward,” he said.
“The AAAS community engagement fellowship programme represents a significant investment in building and nurturing just such communities.”