April 6, 2020

If you have the bandwidth, think about expanding your science communication and outreach

Posted by Laura Guertin

Unique challenges call for unique solutions. The ways we have been so acustomed to doing science communication and outreach have been thrown a curve ball – and will probably not return back to that straight line over home plate we are all so used to following. Sure, online blogging, podcasting, etc. – some of our methods for outreach and communication remain the same. The tools are certainly still the same. But how we use them to connect and share our science have very quickly required some thinking outside of the box. Here are some models and ideas for expanding your science communication and outreach portfolio (if you have the time/bandwidth to do so at this time – and it is OK if you don’t!).


Virtually connect with K-12 students, general public

In most schools, career day programs and other field trips have been cancelled. Why not see if you can be a virtual participant instead?


I absolutely applaud the Rutgers University Geology Museum for immediately beginning an “Ask A Geologist” online series. This virtual program runs every Tuesday and Thursday, with the ability to submit questions via a Google Form ahead of time for the scientist to answer. You can read more in this Rugters University press release and check out the Ask A Geologist webpage.


These are just two examples, keep an eye out for more!


Connect with museums and other non-profits

The pandemic has not been kind to so many organizations, especially non-profits (parks, museums, etc.). So many groups are desperately trying to keep their members engaged, without the members having access to their exhibits, trails, and facilities – and with a reduced staff. So why not show them some support by engaging with non-profits to national parks over social media? There are several clever “hooks” these organizations are putting out there to grab your attention and virtually bring you in. You can respond to surveys:

Here are a couple of the social media campaigns recently put in place by the Science History Institute – easy enough to support and amplify!


Here is one on Instagram from Great Smoky Mountain National Park:

Some non-profits are also seeking speakers for a Facebook Live event, or to do a social media takeover. Check out their webpages and social media feeds, and see if there is a way you can contribute and add to their community.

Of course, you could also look at AGU’s Sharing Science program to do a social media takeover!

Take over our Twitter account! We’d love for scientists and scicommers to take over our @AGU_SciComm account on #SharingSciFri to talk about their experiences! More here.


Start small and local – perhaps, in your neighborhood

This has been a new direction for me in my science communication. I never in a million years thought I’d be using my front door to educate others about science! I was motivated by my neighborhood asking everyone to put rainbows in their windows, so that the families walking around the neighborhood with their kids could count the rainbows they see (and the older kids were challenged to draw a map of all the rainbows). I jumped at the chance to add a rainbow to my front window, but then I thought…. if I have all of these people looking at the front of my house for a rainbow, and I have this big open space on my front door, could I get them to look at something else as well?

Knowing there are so many kids/families going on walks through the town, I decided to turn my front door into a spot for “Fun Science Facts” – a place to share some quick science notes that anyone and everyone could read and learn. I’m not an artist, and the display may not be very visually appealing, but people actually are stopping to read my front door! My neighbors are calling it their “science field trip site,” since all school field trips have been cancelled for the rest of the school year. I was leaving my house one time when a mother and her three elementary school-aged kids were reading the door. She asked each of them to read the facts, tell her which one was their favorite, and why. It melted my heart to see what I can do with construction paper and markers! (Now I have my printer up-and-running at home, so I’m trying to print out the facts so they look better). I’m swapping out the facts each week. This is such a quick and fun way to keep sharing science with others!



I hope this blog post provides some ideas and a different spin or twist on either your existing science communication portfolio or some new options and opportunities to explore. Just like the AGU program, the “Voices for Science” must continue and be heard in our communities and beyond.

My next post will feature another idea for a different spin on an existing engagement program – stay tuned!