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As interest in effective science communication and public engagement has exploded over the past few years, still missing is coordinated thinking and strategy specific to longterm societal goals and policy outcomes. Too much of the discussion has focused narrowly on skills training and the application of social science insights without a longterm social change vision.

In a July 21 presentation to the AAAS Science & Technology Fellows program, I focused on a series of key questions.

How can the scientific community help lead the conversation about the pervasive, deep seated problems that society faces?

What are the broad-based challenges and goals that the scientific community can focus its resources and expertise around?

How can the scientific community make a difference relative to the profound structural forces that undermine political cooperation, sow distrust and alienation, and that cripple efforts to address crises like climate change?

Communication skills training matters. So does applying insights from social science work. But broad based goals that coordinate action and focus are also needed. In my presentation (below), I suggest as examples two broad based goals that the scientific community can comfortably align its efforts at communication and engagement around, leading a national and local-level conversation on their importance.

1) The first focus is on affordability, quality, and access to public higher education, both at the junior college and university level. Why is funding and support for vibrant, innovative, leading public higher education institutions important not only to educating tomorrow’s citizenry and workforce but also to helping states and the country compete economically and address critical problems?

2) The second example is a conversation focused on the UN Sustainable Development goals. These scientifically derived and supported goals promote not only sustainable economic development in the US and across countries, but also in the process address challenges such as social inequality, technological innovation, and climate change.