The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Why Public Engagement?

As citizens and as scholars, we have an interest in today’s debates about public policy, conversations about the state of the world, and imagining a different future. Read more about the Public Engagement Projects' Mission and Vision

Upcoming Events

Data Visualization for Effective Science Communication With Diverse Audiences

Monday, May 8, 2023
10 – 12:00 PM EST
Via Zoom

Participants will learn about various approaches to visualizing scientific findings and data for effective communication with diverse audiences. Focus will be on both key principles of effective data visualization as well as concrete skill-building among participants. Register here.

Making Research Matter, with Dr. Aynne Kokas on Monday, March 20th, 4-5:15 pm, ILC N345 (Hybrid)
Please join us to talk about public engagement and making research matter with Dr. Aynne Kokas, Associate Professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia. Dr. Kokas will share her wealth of experience in engaging with the press, the public, and government officials about her expertise on Sino-U.S. media and technology relations. 
RSVP here In the RSVP you will indicate if you will attend in-person or remotely (the event is hybrid), and if you would like to have your public engagement plans workshopped by our guest speaker.

Paul Collins, 2015 PEP Fellow, comments about two cases now before the U.S. Supreme Court challenging President Joe Biden’s student debt relief plan

The legal studies and political science professor says, “I expect the Court will halt the Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness plan down ideological lines, which will be a major blow to student loan borrowers trying to get out under mountains of debt.” In an interview on WGN Radio, he says, “The conservative justices in particular were pretty skeptical about the Biden administration’s authority to forgive student loans in this way.” Read the Newsweek article and listen to the WGN radio for more. 

Ezra Markowitz, PEP Steering Committee member, has been appointed as a member of a new effort to combat science misinformation.

Markowitz, department of environmental conservation, has joined the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine and the National Science Foundation’s new Committee on Understanding and Addressing Misinformation about Science. The committee’s task is to lead a study that will “characterize the nature and scope of the problem of misinformation about science and its differential impacts; identify solutions to limit its spread; and provide guidance on interventions, policies and research toward reducing harms caused from misinformation.” Read more here.

Rebecca Spencer, 2015 PEP Fellow, participated in a discussion with other sleep experts at Harvard University about the health risks of long-term sleep deprivation and the crucial role sleep plays in memory

The psychological and brain sciences professor says that “When you sleep, you’re taking this movie of your day and you’re putting it on replay, and it’s this great mnemonic device. It’s a way to really solidify the memories that we formed during our day,” Spencer said. Spencer recommends “checking the manageable,” noting that even if you can’t turn down your neighbors’ music or dim the streetlights, there are other strategies for creating a calmer environment such as exercising and exposing yourself to sunlight during the day. Read more here.

Michael Rawlins, 2015 PEP Fellow, comments on the record warmth in New England in January

The Climate System Research Center found that the average temperature in Massachusetts for January was 9.3 degrees warmer than the “climate normal period” (created using data from 1991 to 2020) of 26 degrees. Rawlins, the associate director of the Climate System Research Center, says this “is another data point confirming that our climate is warming due to increasing greenhouse gases in our atmosphere…“It’s amazing that with all the warming we’ve seen in recent years, to see yet again another winter with record or near-record warmth across New England is like an exclamation point on a warming trend.” Read more here

Julie Brigham-Grette, 2017 PEP Fellow, was featured in a radio interview to discuss her research in the Arctic and her findings on the impact of sea-level rise

Brigham-Grette, geosciences, shares her experience with the visibly changing landscape of the Arctic including rising sea levels, coastal erosion, and permafrost degradation. She says, “We’re facing in the coming decade or two, probably a completely Arctic sea ice-free summer. This has a dramatic impact on the ecosystem marine environment.” Listen to the full interview here.

Michael Rawlins, 2015 PEP Fellow, was featured last Fall at a TEDxBoston event discussing climate change in the northeast and actionable ideas

Rawlins discusses the increased incidence of heavy precipitation in the Northeast, extreme heat events, and the proliferation of invasive plant species. While addressing the concerning changes to our environment, Rawlins proposes ​​adaptations that can help to mitigate adverse impacts from costly severe weather events. Watch the recording of the event here.


Michael Rawlins, 2015 PEP Fellow, is quoted in an article about strategies for heat-proofing your home to manage hot weather

    The associate professor of earth, geographic and climate sciences and associate director of the UMass ​​Climate System Research Center says “We can expect to see more extreme precipitation and hydrological events such as river flooding because the warmer atmosphere is holding more moisture.” He also notes that emergency room trips double once temperatures exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit, adding that hotter temperatures aren’t the only effects of climate change New Englanders will experience. Read more here.

Jonathan Wynn, 2017 PEP Fellow, emphasizes the importance of names to our social identity while commenting on the viral “Karen” caricature

Jonathan Wynn, sociology, is quoted in an article about an Ohio woman named Karen who is changing her name in response to social media memes and pop culture references that have associated “Karen” with a negative persona of an entitled middle-class white woman. Wynn says social stigmas don’t have to come in obvious forms. "In sociology, names are a key part of our identity,”. Read the article here.


Sade Bonilla, 2022 PEP Fellow, spoke on a panel hosted by the Brookings Institute where experts discussed the factors that contribute to college enrollment disparities and ways to improve access to higher education

The panelists discussed K-12 obstacles and interventions for students preparing to go to college, college resources, and the role of educational policy in closing gaps. Sade pointed out that many students of color, students from immigrant families, and students from low-income families are culturally underrepresented in their schools’ curricula and textbooks. Her work shows that students who took an ethnic studies course in ninth grade were more likely to graduate high school, had higher rates of attendance, and were more likely to enroll in college. Read the full article here.


In appreciation of their generous support, the UMass Public Engagement Project would like to thank the Office of the ProvostUniversity Relations, and the Colleges of Natural SciencesSocial and Behavioral Sciences Humanities and Fine ArtsEngineeringPublic Health and Health Sciences, and Education.  The UMass Public Engagement Project also recognizes and appreciates in-kind contributions and collaborations with the Center for Research on Families and the Institute for Social Science Research