The AABA Education Committee follows the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s definition of public engagement, which states: 

“Public engagement with science describes intentional, meaningful interactions that provide opportunities for mutual learning between scientists and the public. Mutual learning refers not just to the acquisition of knowledge, but also to increased familiarity with a breadth of perspectives, frames, and worldviews.”

  • It is important for scientists to engage the public with biological anthropology so people can learn about human origins and how we evolved, and to activate public thinking and involvement with concepts such as:
  • human diversity,
  • ethics of working with human remains, and the important roles of descendant communities
  • repatriation,
  • conservation,
  • human-primate interactions,
  • community and citizen science,
  • health disparities,
  • how individuals can effectively participate in community and citizen science.

The AABA Education Committee encourages its members to learn best practices for public engagement with science. As such we have provided a list of resources so that you can learn what leaders in this field are doing.

Best Practices

Communicating scientific facts and data clearly and accurately is an important element of science engagement. However, years of research on science communication has shown that for engagement about science to be meaningful and impactful, “facts are not enough.” (Hayhoe 2018). While the study of science communication and engagement is a robust field, some general best practices and principles have emerged including:

  • Centering inclusion, equity, and intersectionality (Canfield et al. 2021);
  • Recognizing science as a human process, with a cultural and historical context;
  • Understanding the role of values and identity in informing people’s ideas about science and about scientists;
  • Collaborative approaches that empower communities and individuals to participate in active learning, in decision-making, in co-creation of knowledge, and in other actions;
  • Evaluation of engagement activities and their impacts on participants.

The AABA Education Committee suggests these resources and readings as starting points to learn about science engagement:

Suggested resources:

Suggested readings:

Examples of Public Engagement with Science related to Biological Anthropology

What does public engagement with science look like? Here are some examples of how biological anthropologists and scientists in related fields are engaging with the public, drawing on some of the best practices outlined above. Please note that while these programs and activities are provided as examples of public engagement from within the field, the views and ideas expressed by the creators and participants do not necessarily reflect those of the AABA Education committee or AABA as a whole.

  • The American Association of Biological Anthropologists has a YouTube channel which includes a playlist from from the IDEAS (Increasing Diversity in Evolutionary Anthropological Sciences) workshop about what biological anthropologists study and a playlist called “Diversity Matters”.
  • The shared twitter account @Primatweeps uses images, short video clips, and other media to engage with the public about primates and primatology with hashtags like #PrimatePlaytime and #PrimateTrivia
  • The Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History hosts a traveling exhibit centered on the question, “What Does It Mean to Be Human?” that has been hosted at 19 public libraries and two seminaries across the continental U.S. as of 2021. The exhibit is paired with public events, educator workshops, and other programming at each host institution.
  • Ruby’s Lab Manual, curated by Dr. Cara Ocobock, a collection of experiments for elementary school age children based on common household materials to illustrate general and specific science principles, including information on scientists using similar science principles in their work.
  • March Mammal Madness, a tournament of *simulated* encounters among animals, was founded by Dr. Katie Hinde and created annually with biological anthropologists Kristi Lewton, Marc Kissel, Lara Durgavich, Alejandra Nuñez-de la Mora, Anne Stone, Eduardo Amorim, Fernando Villanea, and many other biologists, conservationists, artists, and librarians for over half a million players.
  • Dr. Tina Lasisi hosts a TikTok channel focused on biological anthropology topics such as race, ethnicity, and the history of science in short, relatable videos.
  • Myeashea Alexander writes a blog, The Rockstar Anthropologist, discussing various aspects of biological anthropology in practice, and commentary on science and society intersections. In 2022 she launched a YouTube video series, “Science and…” where she chats with scientists and STEM experts about their lives and expertise beyond the lab, classrooms, and field.
  • On-Call Scientists, a project of the Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights, and the Law (SRHRL) program of AAAS, connects scientists, engineers, and health professionals interested in volunteering their skills and knowledge with human rights organizations that are in need of technical expertise.
  • The Personal Genomics Education Project (pgEd), founded by Dr. Ting Wu, has a mission to increase awareness and conversation about the benefits and ethical, legal, and social implications of personal genetics.
  • The Summer internship for INdigenous peoples in Genomics (SING Consortium) provides opportunities for tribal and community college students, undergraduate and graduate students, and postdocs, as well as Indigenous community members, elders, and tribal leaders, to learn and share about genetics and genomics research.
  • SciComm Lunch-and-Learn, a monthly online event from Duke Science & Society in which interesting, novel aspects of science communication are explored in an informal setting. These are not lectures, but rather discussions with invited presenters who are doing interesting work, asking important research questions, or pushing boundaries in some realm of science communication. Presentations have included several members of the AABA Education committee and scholars from biological anthropology and related fields.
  • Science Forward, a YouTube Channel by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) which believes in the power of individuals to advance science through research and science education, making discoveries that benefit humanity.
  • National Geographic Explorers, exceptional individuals in their fields who receive funding and support from the National Geographic Society to illuminate and protect our world through their work in science, exploration, education, and storytelling.

Copyright © 2022 American Association of Biological Anthropologists.
Site programming and administration: Ed Hagen, Department of Anthropology, Washington State University