I was at the Broader Impacts Fair and someone handed me a flier while inviting me to a talk later than week — it was the first time that I’d ever been handed a flier with my picture on it and invited to an event that I was speaking at! First time for everything.
The event itself was interesting, we had a nice group of about 30 grad students from the BSD and PSD and some staff/faculty at the end of a week. My basic take on broader impacts for graduate students is that it’s not just good for society, but it is fundamentally a part of what it means to be a big-time scientist in the current era. Consequently, it’s an important area that merits focus. Fortunately, the students are part of a university that is willing to put tremendous resources into their success in this area, so there’s an opportunity to do interesting/substantive things, and a challenge to creatively think about how to utilize all of the existing relationships/landscape to maximize their time.
Beyond the normal broader impacts discussion there was a focus on science communication — which has traditionally been part of the broader impacts conversation, but is increasingly part of a broader professional development theme for scientists and opens up a new wave of professional opportunities for scientists beyond the traditional choices.
The event ended on a somewhat disappointing contemporary note – asking what happens to science when there is a growing political, and possibly public, distrust for the underlying concepts of fact and experimental evidence? It’s a tough time that we live in — fortunately this hasn’t made its way to our local school systems yet, but there is certainly a level of unease that we haven’t seen in recent times.