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Reaching Broader Audiences

Anne Pisor and I organized an invited symposium at the 2021 annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. We were actually supposed to do the symposium in 2020 but COVID had other plans. In the run-up to the 2020 meeting, we were invited to put together a special issue of the American Journal of Human Biology based on our symposium. This means that we had a nearly complete special issue published online when we rolled out our symposium in April. That volume is now complete.

For this special issue, we were also invited to write a "toolkit" paper. Because of the diversity of speakers, which meant that there was not necessarily a single methodological threat that ran through all the work presented, and the fact that we are specifically trying to get evolutionary and biological anthropologists (EBAs) to engage in policy, we chose to write a paper on helping EBAs engage broader audiences.

In this paper, we suggest five broad strategies for ensuring the relevance of our work and successfully reaching broader audiences: First is playing to our strength in longitudinal, place-based research, i.e., doing anthropology. There is a troubling thread among anthropologists that their work is somehow not relevant to problems such as climate change. We disagree and argue that we need to keep doing what it is we do best to maximize the relevance of our research. Second, we suggest that EBAs collaborate more broadly. Anthropological research remains less of a team enterprise than many other areas of science and increasing our collaborative efforts extends the skill sets of individual researchers and adds complementarities, potentially increasing the impact of the research. Third, anthropologists should engage in greater public communication of science. There are some excellent science communicators within the ranks of contemporary anthropologists, but there are clearly still deficits. Having more researchers engaging in public communication of our science increases its potential impact. Fourth, anthropologists should align our work with open-science practices to the extent possible. Open science carries many benefits, including greater replicability and trust in scientific findings. Finally, we must continue to increase the diversity of our field and teams through intentional action, outreach, training, and mentorship. Diverse teams bring a wider array of ideas and perspectives to research that have measurable benefits on innovation and impact.