In 2002, Nalini Nadkarni, then a Member of the Faculty at The Evergreen State College, developed an innovative approach to help reverse trends of limited public engagement in science. She believes that scientists themselves can become more directly involved in transmitting research to public audiences. Scientists can be powerful advocates for scientific studies for two reasons. First, they have specialized, technical knowledge of the subject matter. Second, their passion about what they study is infectious; it can inspire others to take an interest in science with surprising effectiveness.
In partnership with other ecologists and informal science educators, she initiated the Research Ambassador Program, a project to help academic scientists overcome obstacles encountered when communicating research to non-traditional public audiences. This mission of this effort, funded by the National Science Foundation (Informal Science Education Program) and the National Geographic Society (Conservation Trust Program), is to help academic scientists communicate their passion for and knowledge of science to non-scientists in a way that will enhance their careers. In doing so, they will increase public awareness of the process and content of scientific discovery in our society.