January 2, 2023

A New Year’s resolution: attend/host a science communication event

Posted by Laura Guertin

I started writing New Year’s resolution posts in 2016. Previous New Year’s posts have included help the public learn about NOAA (2017), help students feel hope towards climate action (2019), answer Dr. Lubchenco’s call for a renewed social contract (2020), create community engagement as a science activator (2021), and taking climate action (2022). My inspiration for this year’s resolution post comes from the recent 2022 AGU Fall Meeting.

Recently, I wrote on this blog Dr. G’s #AGU22 Spotlight – Sharing Science resources, from Ask the Experts. I’m still reflecting about my experience sitting in a circle of scientists across a wide range of career stages and sharing science communication sources. There was one person in our group involved with her city’s Taste of Science program, which is motivating me to pull together a list of science communication or “scicomm” events for scientists to share their expertise beyond an audience of scientists.

Why work on and engage in science communication? The excerpt below is from the Agenda to the 5th Science of Science Communication Colloquium, from National Academies in 2022:

The need for effective communication and engagement about science has never been more important in the face of global challenges, like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a changing climate, and the societal impacts of emerging new technologies. The pandemic has revealed the enormous challenges of communicating about science—communication inequities, political polarization, uncertainty, and misinformation—and the high costs of inadequately overcoming them, especially among communities of color and under-resourced communities. But the need for effective ways to communicate and engage with science is not limited to the current moment and the pandemic, and is only becoming more urgent. For example, the need to make critical decisions related to climate change, such as how to limit greenhouse gas emissions, understand and plan for potential risks, mitigate impacts to the health and well-being of humans and the natural world, and adapt to changes that cannot be prevented, makes it increasingly essential to find ways to improve productive and inclusive civic dialogue around science. Building this capacity for a more effective and equitable science communication ecosystem will require marshaling the collective strengths, creativity, and expertise of research, practice, and communities. — Agenda, Re-Imagining Science Communication in the COVID Era and Beyond

How do we improve our science communication and engagement skills? It takes education, and it takes practice – yes, NBA star Allen Iverson, we’re talking about practice.

Person holding iPad on a ship on the ocean

My amazing scicomm experience in 2022 was being an Onboard Outreach Officer on the scientific research vessel JOIDES Resolution. It was incredible giving virtual tours around the ship while at sea – through an iPad and Zoom!

Some universities/organizations already have formed groups that come together for discussions on the scholarship of science communication (see Duke University’s Scicomm Lunch-and-Learn, University of Oregon’s Center for Science Communication Research), or to share science within their own community (University of Pennsylvania’s 60-Second Lectures and 1.5 minute Climate Lectures). There are also professional organizations with resources, workshops, and conferences that may be of interest (COMPASS The Message Box, Association of Science Communicators Science Talk ’23, the Inclusive SciComm Symposium, etc.).

But for engaging in outreach events for a general audience, consider volunteering to speak at, or at least attend, one of the following in your region or online:

I applaud the graduate students that are pulling together resources and conferences to give other students practice in science communication (see PLOS blog, post on The PhD Lab, and ComSciCon). But all scientists of all ages and stages of career can make an impact and difference for all of the communities we exist in and touch via some more science communication and engagement. This list I share here is not the only way to connect with individuals and groups, but it is one way to expand science beyond our own science connections. Consider adding some additional science communication in 2023.

(Are there any other scicomm events that I’ve forgotten to include? Please let me know and I can add them to the list!)