Outreach: Language Science for Everyone
Outreach enthusiasts from multiple universities have joined forces through an initiative called Language Science for Everyone to develop best practices for sharing accessible but accurate information about language science with the broader public. The program aims to develop an outreach-friendly culture in universities, encouraging faculty and students to get involved, with the ultimate goal to share the fun and fascination of language science research with the broader public. The initiative is supported financially through an NSF grant obtained by Colin Phillips (University of Maryland).
Rachel Dudley, one of the student organizers, commented on the benefits of outreach activities for highschoolers: "I often lament the fact that I wasted much of my time in college split between language and science, switching majors almost every semester (from Romance languages to Biochemistry and pretty much everything in between). If I'd known earlier that there was a way to pursue science with language as the subject matter, I think it would've changed the trajectory of my career."
The Boston University Conference on Language Development (BUCLD) 2014, was the scene for the opening event for Language Science for Everyone. A group of 17 faculty and students from Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, University of Maryland, Ohio State University, Arizona State, and University of Massachusetts at Amherst presented posters and illustrated with hands-on demonstrations the best outreach activities that they have developed along with the challenges faced.
Each university partner brings to the table different expertise. The Arizona group, organized by Cecile McKee, has great expertise setting up linguistics activities at science fairs and presented to the group a troubleshooting guide for potential challenges scientists can face:
The Maryland group, brought together by Jeff Lidz and Colin Phillips, focuses its activities on school-based programs, such as the long-term collaboration with the Northwood High School, and distilled the benefits such a program brings for high schoolers as well as for the graduate students.
The Ohio State and the Buckeye Language Network, led by Laura Wagner, integrated a fully functional language science research lab within a science museum. Since its opening in 2012 the lab had 6000+ participants. More visitors view experiments-in-progress through the glass as “explainers” describe them.
The University of Massachusetts, Amherst, represented by Barbara Pearson, contributed with an overarching perspective regarding both the worldwide push to increase effective science communication, and the resources already available to improve outreach.
Similar Language Science for Everyone events are scheduled for the Linguistics Society of America conference in Portland, January 2015, and the AAAS conference in San Jose, CA in February 2015.