Collaborative Leadership Development for Graduate Students: The ELISS Case Study

Sunday, February 14, 2016
Biswajit Paul, Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Moving knowledge to action to address global challenges requires scientists to collaborate across disciplines, distances, and sectors. Indeed, there is a strong interest, particularly among students, to engage around global challenges Promoting active civic engagement and encouraging efforts to influence policy amongst graduate students has remained a challenge. Research suggests that this is not from a lack of willingness.  A survey by the Pew Charitable trust found that 52.1% of graduate students are very interested in civic engagement. However, only 13.8% reported any training or support from their graduate programs to prepare them to do so. Emerging Leaders in Science & Society (ELISS), strives to fill this gap by providing graduate students with an opportunity to develop as collaborative leaders through civic engagement. This poster shares our approach and outcomes from the pilot years of the program. ELISS, a program of AAAS, recruits teams of graduate students from multiple disciplines and campuses to address timely challenge that impact multiple communities. Their charge is to identify useful practices, data, technology, and ideas to share across cities and with federal stakeholders. Through a process called the ELISS Idea Lab, fellows assess needs and convene a national forum series to generate and share innovative approaches to the challenge. ELISS provides training, mentors, and a platform for engaging with the community in order to prepare and empower doctoral students to engage on complex societal issues with a diverse network of peers. In 2015, the ELISS Idea Lab challenge question, galvanized by the Ebola scare, was: how can digital communication be utilized to prepare and respond during an epidemic? Fellows from University of Washington, Stanford University, Purdue University and University of Pennsylvania planned and facilitated interactive community forums to share insights and ideas. This information was synthesized and shared at a capstone forum in Washington DC in December 2015 with relevant stakeholders. Results from all four cities and our capstone discussion are compiled in a multimedia resource guide, publicly available in January 2016. The ELISS model has empowered PhD students to lead and to initiate engagement with society during their graduate training. In the short term, ELISS Idea Labs help communities learn from one another, leverage university expertise, and connect with federal efforts. The multimedia resource guide on disease surveillance and epidemic preparedness provides an example of this.  Over the long term, an expanding network of ELISS graduates will be poised to effect systemic change as they enter careers in multiple sectors. ELISS offers a model for establishing a mindset that young scientists can, and should, engage global societal issues, a framework for building the interdisciplinary network, and collaborative leadership skills to move knowledge to action.