Kenney receives AAAS Leshner Institute public engagement fellowship

For Immediate Release
December 16th, 2015
Contacts: Nate Rabner,

Kenney receives AAAS Leshner Institute public engagement fellowship

COLLEGE PARK, MD – Melissa Kenney, a University of Maryland Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center assistant research professor, was named a 2016-17 Public Engagement Fellow of the Alan I. Leshner Leadership Institute for Public Engagement with Science, part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Kenney studies climate decision support systems and indicators to increase the use of scientific information in adaptation decisions and mitigation policies. She will attend a weeklong intensive public engagement and science communication training in June as part of AAAS’ first cohort of Public Engagement Fellows.

“Up to this point, and significantly influenced by my time as an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow, I have focused my work on teams of scientists and federal agency decision-makers,” Kenney said. “Because much of my work focuses on current environmental decisions, I often translate these scientific findings into policy memos or decision support prototypes to different federal agencies or stakeholders.”

Kenney’s achievements demonstrate a commitment to promoting effective communication between the scientific community and society. She was a lead author of the 2014 U.S. National Climate Assessment’s Decision Support chapter, and she co-led an effort to scope, develop, and prototype a federal interagency climate indicators system. In October, she received the 2015 Young Investigator Award from Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society.

After the June training in Washington, D.C., Kenney and the 14 other Public Engagement Fellows will “return to their institutions with resources and connections to develop and implement public engagement activities, opportunities for training other scientists in their communities, and increased capacity for public engagement leadership,” according to a AAAS news release.

“AAAS is encouraged by the interest in this new Public Engagement Fellowship opportunity. The 15 Fellows selected, and the many others who applied, demonstrate clear commitment in the climate science community to engage the public on this critical issue,” said Tiffany Lohwater, AAAS director of meetings and public engagement, in a statement. “The fellowship program is focusing on climate with its first scientist cohort, building on the long-standing commitment of AAAS to science communication and public engagement.”

“My goal as a Leshner Leadership Institute Fellow is to expand my communication and engagement skills to state and local stakeholder communities in the Mid-Atlantic region,” Kenney said. “Adaptation solutions require an understanding of both uncertain climate impacts and the competing values of multiple stakeholders. Honing my public engagement skills is critical to building trust, to navigating complex climate impact discussions with non-scientists, and to co-developing potential solutions.”

The Leshner Leadership Institute, managed by the AAAS Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology, is supported by philanthropic donations. It is named for AAAS Chief Executive Officer Emeritus Alan Leshner. A reception is being held in conjunction with the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco to celebrate and welcome the new fellows.

Media Contacts
Nate Rabner
Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center