SciComm Takes Center Stage

I’ve been busy the past few months with the kick-off of a new academic year. One of the biggest shifts for me has been the extent to which science communication has risen to the top of my to-do lists. We’ve reached the midpoint of my semester and a relaxing few days for Fall Break, so I thought I’d give a quick update here and share some success stories.

But first, a little context.

This blog (now in its third year) has been a recent experiment of mine about communicating science. But my long-standing interest in sharing science with public audiences started years ago, and it was the topic of one of my first blog posts (“Informal Science”). Over the past couple of years, I’ve had other opportunities to expand my involvement in my own community (“Sharing Science…”), learn new techniques in science communication (“February Science Connections”), and even bring science engagement opportunities to my undergraduate students (“Fostering Community…”).

Over the past few months, I’ve taken advantage of additional opportunities to expand my training in science communication. Through online resources from the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science and NPR SciCommers, I participated in webinars that addressed different aspects of communication, or broader issues in sharing and connecting science with different groups of people. Over the summer, I joined anatomy scientists for a series of “SciComm boot camp” workshops organized by colleagues at a nearby university. (Thank you to Krista Hoffman-Longtin and Jason Organ for including me!) The activities were led by communications professionals, improvisational theatre instructors, public policy liaisons, journalists, visual design experts, and more. I left feeling better prepared, full of food for thought—and better equipped to bring a few new ideas into my classrooms of college students.

Fast forward to fall: I’ve launched a second version of a community engagement course with undergraduates. They’re now also learning about science communication strategies and what it means to connect science with the arts, history, and other areas through their own engagement with local community members. (See this link for a nice article about my students’ work at a local science festival.) I’m also continuing my own professional development and meeting new people in my community through conversations about books, science and religion, and more.

Children having hands-on fun with slime and slug biology, courtesy of my creative students at a community science festival.

I even wrote a longer piece about science communication and undergraduate education, which was published this week through the PLOS (Public Library of Science) SciComm blog site: https://blogs.plos.org/scicomm/2019/10/15/scicomm-at-school/

The title of today’s blog post alludes to the contributions of the theatre arts in helping scientists and others create more dynamic interpersonal interactions (improvisation plays a large role in communication training, for example). Last night, I attended a local theatre production. It’s always interesting to watch a show and to consider the many elements that make for a successful experience, from the actors, to the lighting and sound design and everything in between.

I feel lucky to spend my days surrounded by interesting people doing interesting things—both in person and online. From the arts and humanities, to science, to rebuilding infrastructure in our community (nearby transportation and building improvements have not gone unnoticed!), it takes people of different backgrounds and skills working together and sharing ideas to make a strong community.

Thank you for reading my blog, participating in science communication, and being part of my broader community today!

(Image credit: Free image, Pixabay)

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