Beginning in 2008, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences organized four off-the-record workshops for experts from the scientific community and representatives of the public, to explore how scientists currently understand their obligation to the broader social and cultural contexts in which their work is received, and to examine ways to improve engagement between the scientific and public communities. The Academy focused each project workshop on a specific area of research and technology: the Internet, nuclear waste, genetic information, and alternative energy.
In these four areas, scientists have met with varying degrees of success in working with the public, in part because of differences in the maturity of the technologies. For instance, nuclear waste has been an issue for decades while personal genomics is a still-emerging field. These developmental time frames affected the workshop discussions as well as the recommendations for next steps that emerged from each workshop. Nevertheless, the four project workshops identified common themes that can influence future work to strengthen the dialogue between the scientific community and the public.