ST. LOUIS, Mo. - Jane Lubchenco, the Wayne and Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology at Oregon State University, today received the Public Understanding of Science and Technology Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
This award from the world's largest general scientific society was made at its annual meeting and recognizes Lubchenco's "commitment to communicating science and technology to such diverse audiences as civic groups, school children, local, national and international leaders, as well as religious leaders and captains of business and industry," an AAAS official said.
"Through her example, many scientists and engineers are moving beyond efforts just to educate or help the public understand scientific concepts, and instead are promoting an open dialogue on issues affecting all our lives," said Alan Leshner, chief executive officer of the AAAS.
Lubchenco, a marine ecologist, has been instrumental in the foundation of three major initiatives to increase science communication. One was the Aldo Leopold Leadership Program, begun at OSU in 1998, to train academic environmental scientists to be more effective communicators and leaders.
The second was COMPASS, the Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea, a collaboration of marine academic scientists, SeaWeb and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, to communicate marine conservation science to resource users and managers, policy makers, and the media. The third was PISCO, the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans, a four-university research, training and outreach collaboration focused on the near-shore marine ecosystem of the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California.
"Earlier in my career I was like most researchers who just teach their students and publish their studies but don't get involved much in the public arena," Lubchenco said. "But I've come to realize that as scientists we have both an opportunity and an obligation to help more people understand and use science, which plays such a critical role in our lives. This award is powerful recognition from the AAAS and I'm deeply honored to accept it on behalf of the Leopold, COMPASS and PISCO programs.
"Most scientists are already passionate about what they do," she added. "We must learn to share that passion and help others understand the process, be informed by it, even get caught up in the excitement of scientific understanding and discovery."
Science communication does not always come naturally to scientists, Lubchenco said.
"Graduate school teaches us to use a lot of technical scientific jargon and to dwell on all of the nuances, complexities and details of our research," Lubchenco said. "Those approaches are not very useful in communicating with lay audiences. Scientists also need to be able to talk about their findings in ways that are understandable, interesting and useful to nonscientists without distorting the information. That's a very tall order but one that is eminently possible and urgently needed.
"After all is said and done, there's a lot that we really do know," Lubchenco pointed out, "and we need to share that knowledge in language that people can understand and use."
Lubchenco, who received her doctorate in marine ecology from Harvard University, does research on marine biology, biological diversity, ecosystem services, the causes and consequences of global changes, and sustainable ecological systems.
She has received multiple career honors and awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship, Pew Fellowship, eight honorary degrees and other major awards. She is past president of the AAAS and the International Council for Science. The AAAS, founded in 1848, publishes the journal Science, serves 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, and reaches 10 million individuals.
Jane Lubchenco, 541-737-5337; or 541-231-7159 (cell)
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