Every scientist has had "that" conversation: the casual conversation with family members or friends that inevitably ends with eyes glazed over because of the seemingly esoteric and incomprehensible nature of what you do in the lab. Explaining your research can be challenging. The disconnect that follows these conversations with family and friends can be easily glossed over, but it is actually quite telling of the severe communication gap that is growing between scientists and the general public. COMPASS, ASCB's Committee for Postdocs and Students, has set a priority on efforts to close this gap.
COMPASS is announcing the first ASCB Outreach Grants to help you show your science, instead of just telling it. We are offering grants of $100 to $1,000 to support ASCB members with outreach projects to engage the public. ASCB and COMPASS want to generate excitement about science (especially NIH-funded research) and to show the public how cool (and normal) scientists are.
Show kids what it's like to do science for a day by bringing a busload to your lab. Past school field trips to research labs have completely altered kids' perceptions of scientists. Bring your labmates, a few microscopes, and some C. elegans to your local community center for a "Cell Biology Day." Rent a booth at your local science festival and help the public extract DNA from strawberries. Serve as a science fair judge and give a special cash prize to the best cell biology project (and watch as cell biology projects become the norm the following year!). The Outreach Grants are certainly not limited to these examples. If you're an ASCB member (any level) and you have a great outreach idea, we have funds for you.
The first deadline for applications is coming soon (April 15, 2014). However, there are two more application cycles this year (with deadlines of July 15 and October 15) to allow for year-round outreach activities. The application must include:
1) A description of the proposed event with detailed specifics of when, where, and how the event will take place
2) The organizer's CV, highlighting previous outreach experience (if any)
3) A proposed budget justifying the costs
4) A description of how ASCB will be acknowledged during the event
5) An explanation of how the event will be documented. COMPASS hopes to showcase the outreach efforts with pictures, videos, and/or essays on its website.
COMPASS's first-ever Outreach Grants are one step toward closing the gap between scientists and the public. These grants are a great opportunity to nurture excitement for science among people of all ages, and not only is it for the benefit of the public, but also for the longevity of scientific research.