News Release 

Science webinar series delivers open discussions on critical issues researchers face

American Association for the Advancement of Science

Now seven months along, the webinar series that Science and Fondation Ipsen launched in January 2019 - to openly address topics many people believe scientists should be evaluating more critically - is having the hoped-for impact.

The series has included over 20 speakers with diverse backgrounds, and prompted comprehensive dialogs on topics like mental health issues among scientists and communicating science broadly.

"I believe having a candid discussion about my own career path and experiences in a public forum was important to set an example for future generations of aspiring women scientists," said Shruti Naik, assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health, who participated in the April 2019 webinar "Unmasking mental health issues faced by scientists."

Attendees of the webinars - numbering around 100,000 so far, both live and post - reported feeling better equipped to address related issues.

"I found [the] webinar ["Selling without selling out: How to communicate your science"] to be extremely informative and well done, particularly because of the variety of perspectives the presenters brought to the topic under discussion," said an attendee.

"I think panels like this lift audience members out of their own specializations to start thinking about connections with related topics," said Cynthia Miller-Idriss, professor of education and sociology at American University and a speaker for the June 2019 "Weaponizing science for the greater good" webinar.

A stated goal of the webinar series has been to hear voices from different disciplines, career stages and countries. So far, speakers have joined from the United Kingdom, France and Italy, among other countries.

"A multidisciplinary panel allows for a fuller discussion by bringing multiple perspectives to the table," said panelist Jennifer Howes, director of health and counseling services at California Institute of Technology, who participated in the April 2019 webinar on mental health.

The panelists say the use of digital platforms is helping them reach a broader audience, including both scientists and the public, and bringing a feeling of closeness by removing the existing geographical distance among participants and panelists. The series has attracted many international attendees, allowing people to talk about issues "across borders" in ways they may not otherwise.

"I think digital platforms are great tools," said panelist Alexia Youknovsky at Agent Majeur in France, who participated in the webinar on science communication. "Being able to communicate with hundreds of scientists at the same time, with both live and deferred transmission, really opens the scope for maximum impact."

Dr. James Levine, president of the Fondation Ipsen, which teamed up with Science to launch the series, highlighted that many scientists face challenges related to communicating their expertise to the public - a topic he and Science made the focus of the May 2019 webinar. The May webinar was designed to equip scientists to more effectively communicate the implications of their work to a lay audience, and in so doing, to promote collaboration between scientists and communities.

"I think modern scientists must engage the public, using all available platforms to talk about issues that are important to people," said Levine. "Science education is for all."

"We need to become more agile and smart in how we communicate our science to the general public, otherwise we risk becoming outperformed by the spread of inaccurate scientific information," said panelist Frederik Anseel, professor of organizational behavior at King's College London, who participated in the mental health webinar.

The webinar series has been a rewarding endeavor for Anseel and other panelists.

"One of the effects I hadn't expected," said Anseel, "was being brought around the table with other experts and getting to know them. That was a great experience, both on a personal level but also [for the way it allowed me] to draw on their phenomenal expertise and background."

Science and Fondation Ipsen plan additional webinars - some to be hosted in Paris - that will continue to examine societal matters from unique perspectives.

The "You can't think outside the box if you're locked inside it" webinar, scheduled for 22 August, will explore how an intellectually diverse workforce can maximize creativity and innovation. The speakers will also discuss gender and race diversity, implicit bias, and academic career development and mentoring.

The "Financial literacy for scientists" webinar will address the importance of financial wellbeing in scientists' lives and careers, offering practical tips towards overcoming potential financial burdens.

Other upcoming webinars will focus on entrepreneurship and how to run a business.

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To find out more about the latest events in the webinar series, please visit webinar.sciencemag.org.

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