Pittsburgh was chosen over about ten other cities in a search for a pilot program organized by two departments of the National Academies. The National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering are teaming up on the project and will begin the "Science and Engineering Ambassador Program" in the fall.
Dr. Barbara Schaal, Vice President of the National Academy of Sciences, says one of the goals of the pilot program is to create a narrative or story that puts scientific research in the context of societal issues.
"Very often it is difficult for us to go beyond the focus of our research and the precise language that we use to a point where we can relate to the public," Schaal said.
The pilot program is expected to last one year, but Schaal said it could continue much longer once it becomes "self-sustaining," and gains steam after addressing a variety of topics. Dr. Ralph Cicerone, President of the Academy of Sciences, said the initial topic for the pilot program revolves around energy.
"Energy has all of these consequences," Cicerone said. "We would like to see a lot more public engagement and public understanding of all of those consequences and develop a much deeper understanding amongst the public."
Ambassadors for the program are still being chosen, but among those already selected in the pilot are professors and scientists from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon, as well as executives from Westinghouse. Each of the ambassadors will also choose a younger scientist or graduate student.
More information about the ambassador program can be found at the program's website.