Cornell sending strong contingent to AAAS 2015

Bruce Lewenstein

As scientific controversies – objecting to vaccinations, denying climate change – swirl through old and new media, Bruce Lewenstein, chair of the Department of Science and Technology Studies and professor of communication, will moderate a panel, “Public Engagement for Scientists: Realities, Risks and Rewards,” to kick off the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) 2015 annual meeting to be held Feb. 12-16 in San Jose, California.

Lewenstein’s Feb. 12 panel discussion will be streamed live at 4 p.m. EST.

Communicating science from the research laboratory through television, radio, print media, social media and other forms of outreach has become a major topic at AAAS meetings in the last several years. “The sessions about science communication have been incredibly popular. The rooms are so crowded with researchers, that they regularly overflow into the hallways,” said Lewenstein, who expects a sold-out crowd of 600 people with perhaps hundreds more watching the online stream.

Session panelists include Elizabeth Babcock, chief public engagement officer, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco; Heidi Ballard, associate professor of education, University of California, Davis; Anthony Dudo, assistant professor, University of Texas at Austin; and Nalini Nadkarni, professor, University of Utah.

Other Cornell faculty who will be at the AAAS meeting:

  • Lillian Lee, professor of computer science, will speak on natural language processing and computational linguistics in “Language, People, Influence” at the session “Linguistics of Status, Influence, and Innovation: A Computational Perspective.”
  • Sarah Evanega, a professor of plant breeding and genetics, is a co-organizer of a session that aims to bridge the information gap between science and the general public, “Access to Scientific Expertise in Fast Growing African Countries.”
  • Michael Macy, professor of sociology, will moderate “Virtual Labs: Transforming the Social, Behavioral and Information Sciences,” a symposium that will introduce recent scientific breakthroughs made possible by the use of online virtual labs.
  • Jennifer Shirk, manager of, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, will moderate “Citizen Science: Advancing Innovations for Science, Information and Engagement.” Rick Bonney, a program director at the Lab of Ornithology, will speak on “Organizing Information and Inquiries for Impact.” The Citizen Science Association, a new group that serves this rapidly growing field, meets for the first time at the AAAS conference.
  • Rodney Dietert, professor of microbiology and immunology, will speak on “Living with a Microbiome: Role of Toxic Exposures in Shaping ‘The Completed Self,’” a talk about environmental risk factors – such as environmental chemicals, drugs, diet, physical activity and lifestyle – during childhood and human development.
  • Lisa Kaltenegger, professor of astronomy and director of the Institute for Pale Blue Dots, will speak on “Is the Earth in the Habitable Zone?” addressing the parameters for a planet to be considered in the habitable zone and how different models of detection yield different results, at the “Exoplanets: New Worlds Aplenty” session.

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Joe Schwartz