Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New chaired professorship at Wisconsin deals with societal issues surrounding emerging technologies

UW/CALS press release from today:
"The College of Agricultural & Life Sciences at UW-Madison today announced the creation of the John E. Ross Chaired Professorship in Science Communication. This new Chair – housed in the Department of Life Sciences Communication (LSC) – was made possible in part by a substantial donation from John E. Ross (Ph.D, ’54), Emeritus Professor and former faculty member in LSC.  LSC Professor Dietram A. Scheufele (Ph.D, ’99) was named the inaugural John E. Ross Chaired Professor in Science Communication.  “This is a tremendous honor,” says Scheufele, “and it is a privilege to continue the long line of scholars who have explored the societal dynamics surrounding science and technology in LSC, including John and his colleagues more than fifty years ago.”

Dietram A. Scheufele, John  E. Ross, and CALS Dean Molly Jahn

The establishment of this chaired professorship highlights the critical importance of public communication about science in the 21st century. As John Ross stated, when asked about the reasons for this initiative: “We are in the early stages of a scientific renaissance, a renaissance that will recast our understanding of the nature of things and will reshape our collective behavior in response to scientific discoveries.”

Ross’s links to UW and the Department of Life Sciences Communication are profound, beginning with a graduate assistantship in 1948. He was the first graduate of the doctoral program in the then-new field of “Mass Communications” at UW in 1954. His dissertation examined the public relations ramifications of legislative initiatives fostered by farm organizations. He was appointed assistant professor in 1959 and promoted to associate professor with tenure in 1960. He was named professor in 1966, elected chair of the department in 1969, and named the first Associate Director of the Institute of Environmental Studies in 1970. Over the years, he advised 150 graduate students in environmental communication and resource policy, chaired the Social Sciences Divisional Committee, served on the University Committee, served as executive director of PROFS, and generally served as faculty spokesperson to legislators, regents and governmental agencies.

The Department of Life Sciences Communication at UW is over 100 years old and was the first department to teach communication courses on the UW-Madison campus.  Today, the department offers Bachelors, Masters and doctoral education in science communication. LSC’s research, teaching and outreach focus on both applied and theoretical communication issues, and an LSC degree prepares students for professional and academic careers related to communicating science and technology in an era of rapid technological change and media convergence. “The department is delighted to see its record of scholarship, and especially Scheufele’s meteoric rise, reflected in the establishment of the John E. Ross Chair in Science Communication,” said LSC’s department chair, Professor Jacqueline C. Hitchon McSweeney. “The importance of research on public opinion of science has never been greater than now, when science is becoming increasingly politicized and fueling policy.”

Dietram A. Scheufele, the first holder of the John  E. Ross Chair, continues the long tradition of scholarship in science communication in LSC.  He is Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in LSC, with affiliate appointments in Science and Technology Studies and European Studies. Scheufele’s work deals with the intersection of science, politics, and society, and is frequently discussed in national and international news outlets. He is also Wisconsin PI for the NSF-funded Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University, a former member of the Nanotechnology Technical Advisory Group to the U.S. President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, and currently co-chair of the National Conference of Lawyers and Scientists.  Scheufele's scholarship and teaching has been recognized with the Robert M. Worcester Award and the Naomi C. Turner Prize from the World Association for Public Opinion Research, the Young Scholar Award for outstanding early career research from the International Communication Association, the Young Faculty Teaching Excellence Award from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University, and the Pound Research Award from the College of Agricultural & Life Sciences at UW."