Five resources to help improve your science communication skills.
On April 22 people marched for science all round the world. You may have been one of them.
But what come next?
The March for Science was just the beginning of a movement that’s supporting informed science advocacy, community building, and accessible education — the movement kicks off with a Week of Action between April 23–29.
And deeply embedded in this movement’s mission is the need for more and better publicly communicated science.
But if you’re more used to doing science rather than talking about it, how do you take the next step?
Here are five ways to help develop your skills as a scientist-communicator:
- Sign up for the University of Michigan Stand-up for Science Teach-Out. This is a free online course that teaches core communication skills, and draws on the university’s ground-breaking R.E.L.A.T.E program. It’s just 3–4 hours commitment over the space of a week, and so is easy to fit in around busy work/research schedules. But be warned — it’s only running from May 5-12. So if you’re interested, now’s the time to act! Free.
- Get engaged with COMPASS. COMPASS was set up by former American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) president Dr. Jane Lubchenco, to help scientists effectively share their knowledge in the public discourse and decision-making. The organization offers a number of training, networking and coaching opportunities, as well as science communication tools and resources. $$ — some resources free
- Sign up with the Alda-Kavli Center for Communicating Science. The Alda-Kavli Center— established by actor Alan Alda — uses, amongst other techniques, improvisation-based approaches to help scientists communicate and engage around complex topics with people outside their area of expertise. The Center offers a number of workshops, including its highly regarded Science Communication Boot Camps. $$ — some opportunities free.
- Submit your science videos to Science Showcase. Science Showcase is a relatively new YouTube channel where scientists can submit their science videos to be showcased to a broad online audience. The channel’s intended to connect people who do science, with those who want to learn about it, and encourages scientists to meet a growing demand for good science content on YouTube. To maintain quality control, only videos that meet specific criteria are showcased. But these boil down to videos that are authentic, accurate, and worth watching! There are plans to include videos on how to make effective science videos on the channel in the future. Free.
- Get involved with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The AAAS provides a number of guides and opportunities for scientists to develop their communication skills, including workshops, resources, the Leshner Leadership Institute, and the AAAS online community platform Trellis. Mainly free, but access to some resources and opportunities may require AAAS membership.
These are just five ways you can develop your science communication skills and impact. There are plenty of others.
These includes some great resources on developing evidence-based communication and engagement approaches. One that I’d recommend here is the recent National Academies of Sciences report on Communicating Science Effectively.
The bottom line though is that, if you want to make a difference as a scientist, the ability to communicate effectively to people outside your areas of expertise is important.
So go for it — and flex those scientist-communicator muscles!
By way of full disclosure, I am a faculty mentor to R.E.L.A.T.E., and the producer of Science Showcase. I was also an author on the NAS Communicating Science Effectively report. And I really like the work of the Alda-Kavli Center and COMPASS (and am a member of AAAS) :)