2021 Conference

Communicating the Future: Engaging the Public in Basic Science

July 27-28, 2021
Free | Virtual


On July 27-28, 2021, SciPEP will convene a virtual conference exploring the unique characteristics of the relationship between the public and basic research, drawing from the experience and expertise of our colleagues in the science and science communication communities. Communicating the Future: Engaging the Public in Basic Science will explore why the public and basic science should be connected and what current communication and engagement efforts are taking place, including the challenges and opportunities in this work. Ultimately, we intend to identify how scientists and professionals can work to engage the public with basic research as effectively as possible.

The conference program will be organized around the exploration of the why, what and how of the relationship between the public and basic science. The following aspects will be explored throughout:

  • Scholarship (e.g. communications research) – whether and how it can be applied to public engagement practice, and identification of new research questions;
  • Training – public engagement skills development for scientist-communicators and the communication professionals who work with them;
  • Engagement practice – activities or programs that provide opportunities for mutual learning or exchange of ideas between scientists and members of the public; 
  • Justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in public engagement; and
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of public engagement activities and programs. 

What we discuss and learn at this conference will also inform future directions of SciPEP and the resources and training we propose to develop for basic scientists.


Jennifer Doudna

In conversation with NPR science correspondent Joe Palca, Dr. Doudna, Nobel and Kavli Prize laureate and biochemist at the University of California, Berkeley, will reflect on the life cycle of public engagement in basic research.

Bruce Lewenstein

Dr. Lewenstein, Professor of Science Communication and former chair of the Department of Science & Technology Studies at Cornell University, will give a foundational talk about the four dimensions of public engagement and the range of associated goals for communicating about basic science.

Shobita Parthasarathy

Dr. Parthasarathy, Professor at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and Director of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program at the University of Michigan, will headline a discussion about the societal dynamics we need to consider when deciding whether and why we communicate about basic research.

Tania Lombrozo

What do we really know about how human curiosity, wonder, and awe inform and shape public perceptions of science and scientists? Dr. Lombrozo, the Arthur W. Marks Professor of Psychology and Director of the Concepts & Cognition Lab at Princeton University, will share her understanding about the psychological underpinnings of these curious and (awe)some emotions.

Daniel Silva Luna

Should public engagement in science stimulate wonder and awe? Daniel Silva Luna, PhD candidate at the Centre for Science Communication at the University of Otago, Aetearoa New Zealand, will discuss whether curiosity and awe are sufficient drivers fo public engagement in basic science.

Raj Pandya

Dr. Pandya, Director of the American Geophysical Union’s Thriving Earth Exchange, will lead a discussion on the importance of cultural competency and inclusivity in public engagement in basic science.

Other distinguished plenary participants include:

  • Ann Bartuska, Resources for the Future
  • Nanci Bompey, American Geophysical Union
  • Rick Borchelt, U.S. Department of Energy
  • Jayatri Das, The Franklin Institute
  • Mariette DiChristina, Boston University
  • Samuel Dyson, Hopewell Fund
  • Kirsten Ellenbogen, Great Lakes Science Center
  • Marta Entradas, London School of Economics
  • Mónica Feliú-Mójer, Ciencia Puerto Rico
  • Jeanne Garbarino, RockEDU
  • Leslie Krohn, Argonne National Laboratory
  • Beronda Montgomery, Michigan State University
  • Brian Nord, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
  • David Kirby, California Polytechnic State University
  • Roger Pielke Jr., University of Colorado Boulder
  • Susan Renoe, Missouri School of Journalism
  • Erika Shugart, National Science Teaching Association
  • Brooke Smith, The Kavli Foundation
  • Edna Tan, University of North Carolina, Greensboro
  • Kyle Whyte, University of Michigan
  • Sara Yeo, University of Utah


Communicating the Future will feature plenaries, concurrent sessions, poster sessions, and opportunities to network. The full agenda can be accessed from our digital conference platform after registering.

View an outline of the agenda.


Communicating the Future will be free for attendees, and we do not have a cap on the number of participants. We do hope, however, that you’ll be able to commit to participating both days of the conference.