PopTech--an organization focused on promoting social innovation and the spread of problem-solving ideas--has announced its inaugural class of 20 Science Fellows. The fellows are early to mid-career leaders in fields such as energy, food supply, sustainability, water, public health, climate change, conservation ecology, green chemistry, computing, education, oceans, and national security.
The fellows were chosen based on their scientific credentials but also for their innate communication and leadership skills. As PopTech describes, the program is designed to provide the Science Fellows with long term communication and leadership training, mentorship, and access to thought leaders across sectors of society including those from the fields of media, business, social innovation, and education. At the PopTech page, you can read about each of the Science Fellows and their work.
In August, I had the chance to meet and discuss with the Science Fellows trends and research in the area of science communication at a retreat held at the Banbury Center of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. At AoE, over the coming weeks, I am going to be following up with several Fellows to ask them about their work and their outlook on public communication and engagement.
As a communication researcher, it's very easy for me to admire PopTech. Their programs apply a range of innovative best practices aimed at diffusing ideas, building and connecting leaders, and engaging the public. In the process, they harness and take advantage of a unique blend of face-to-face and social media strategies.
Besides their Science Fellows program, PopTech has trained several cohorts of Social Innovation Fellows. PopTech also organizes and runs year long "PopTech Labs," open, collaborative investigations that bring together leaders focused on a specific social problem. This year's lab focuses on ecomaterials. In addition, the organization runs Accelerator Initiatives, designed to bring experts from academia, business, and other fields together to work on high potential problem-solving projects, with PopTech supporting project management, due diligence, partnership solicitation, fundraising, media documentation, and other services required to bring the project to scale. One current project uses mobile phone technology to combat HIV and TB in South Africa, delivering text messages to members on the public about HIV and TB risk and that support health care access and treatment.
PopTech is perhaps best known for its annual PopTech conference held every October in Camden, Maine. Called by Wired magazine a "must-attend for intellectual heavy weights...," the conference features a line up of interactive talks by social innovators, scientists, researchers, and problem-solvers, with the goal of identifying new ideas and brokering collaborations. Below you can watch a video from last year's conference, featuring PopTech Executive Editor Andrew Zolli discussing the launch of the Science Fellows program. Also check out the line up of speakers at this year's event.