The Science & Engineering Ambassadors program is a joint initiative of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering that aims to integrate scientists and engineers into local decision making for the benefit of their communities. The academies chose Pittsburgh as the pilot site for the project in 2012, with a focus on energy, because of southwestern Pennsylvania’s abundant energy resources and high-quality research.
Currently, the program supports 30 science and engineering ambassadors from universities, federal labs, nonprofits and industry. It trains them to become effective communicators and, in contrast to many science communications efforts, also organizes ongoing engagements that give them the opportunity to connect with local decision makers.
In July 2015, the mayor of Pittsburgh signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Department of Energy to develop advanced ‘micro-grid’ prototypes to transform the way electricity is produced and distributed in the resurgent Steel City. A catalyst for the agreement was the Grid Academy, a four-part series on modernizing the electrical grid that the Science & Engineering Ambassadors program organized with the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, a local, private-sector leadership organization. The program’s experts also serve as advisers to several energy-related projects in Pittsburgh.
The Simons Foundation also supported the reprinting of the National Academy of Sciences’ Women’s Adventures in Science book series. Written for middle-school-aged girls, the series highlights exceptional women in science and their many accomplishments.