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Education / Graduate Education / BEST Program / Training Pathways / Communication And Outreach

Science Communication and Outreach

Although communicating scientific work is one of the most important skills a trainee can develop, traditional biomedical research training provides little structured guidance related to science writing, communication, and outreach. Having impeccable oral and written communication skills is important not only for embarking on a successful academic or research-related career but also for becoming a well-regarded spokesperson to champion the importance of future biomedical research. Unfortunately, oral and written communication skills are often considered skills that will be picked up along the way as one cobbles together manuscripts, qualifying examinations, training grants and laboratory and conference presentations. We believe these skills should be rigorously examined and developed. You can explore this pathway as either a career pathway or a skills pathway.

URBEST’s goal is to help train PhD graduate students and postdoctoral affiliates to go beyond the expectation of being a sage on a stage (ref 1) and instead embrace the idea of reaching out to the public by way of museum lectures, science cafes, hands-on activities and media interviews. Our goal is to get trainees to do three things for their audience: explain, elevate and enthrall. We want trainees to engage in science conversations that cover more than just their dissertation projects. By challenging graduate students and postdocs to more effectively communicate their research to nonscientific audiences, they will also sharpen the presentation skills they use to share their data with scientific audiences.

The pathway is co-directed by Dr. Tracey Baas, Executive Director of URBEST, who joined the University of Rochester after having worked with Nature Publishing Group for eight years as a writer and editor at Science-Business Exchange and for three years as a freelance manuscript reviewer at Nature Biotechnology. She entered the writing/editing field during graduate school as a copy editor with Review of Modern Physics. 

The pathway is co-directed Dr. Dina Markowitz, a professor in Environmental Medicine and the Center for Community Health and Prevention and the Director of the Life Sciences Learning Center, a hands-on science inquiry center for students and community members throughout the Greater Rochester Area. She is also the co-founder of the course Scientific Communication and Visual Design for Diverse Audiences (IND426), now in its fourth year. Dina also holds a unique position of being an entrepreneur by starting her own company, Science Take-Out, which develops, manufactures and sells innovative and easy-to-use hands-on science kits that are used by high school and middle school students throughout the US.

Explore the Science Communication and Outreach Pathway

Write for the URBEST blog or the NIH BEST blog. The BEST career development program is part of a national effort to help biomedical PhDs and postdocs prepare for a variety of career options. Only a handful of schools have these programs and we want to give others a taste of your experience. We are looking for bloggers to write diary-style entries about the career development process to be published on the local URBEST website or the national NIH BEST website.

Secure a position with the AAAS Mass Media Science & Engineering Fellows Program. The 10-week summer program places science, engineering, and mathematics students at media organizations nationwide. Fellows use their academic training as they research, write, and report today’s headlines, sharpening their abilities to communicate complex scientific issues to the public.

Take Scientific Communication and Visual Design for Diverse Audiences (IND426) with Dina Markowitz, PhD and Derek Crowe, MS. This course offers a hands-on based approach to improve science communication skills. Students will work in small groups to practice distilling, visualizing, and presenting their scientific message. We will focus on improving communication with both scientific and non-scientific audiences. Principles and tools of visual design will be explored. Communication ethics will be emphasized. This course integrates improvisation techniques, which allow presenters to better connect with their audience. Participants should come ready to step outside of their comfort zone and dive into a variety of different experiences from week to week. Registration is open to students from all departments at the University of Rochester. 2 Credit hours. Class meets once per week on Fridays during the fall semester for fifteen, 1.5-hour sessions. No prerequisites. Email Derek_Crowe@URMC.Rochester.edu or Dina_Markowitz@URMC.Rochester.edu for more information. 

Participate in a ComSciCon National Workshop or a ComSciCon Regional Workshop. These annual summer workshops are open to graduate students nationwide, and are free to attend for accepted applicants. The ComSciCon National Workshop is held in Boston/Cambridge, and the ComSciCon Regional Workshop is held at Cornell. Once accepted into the program, URBEST can provide a travel and housing scholarship.

Join NPR's Science Communication Community! Friends of Joe's Big Idea, (pronounced foe-JOE-bee) is a community of scientists that includes undergrads, graduate students, post docs and faculty interested in improving their science communication skills. There are some 800 FOJBIs across the United States. Our main goal is to help scientists who want to be better communicators. We want to help you build skills. We can connect you with more than 800 different science communicators around the country who have experience in writing, outreach, and teaching. Find out how to get involved here

Volunteer at the Rochester Museum & Science Center. Volunteers are essential to the success of the Rochester Museum & Science Center. The involvement of hundreds of talented, committed individuals greatly extends the range, quality, and variety of our visitor’s experiences. RMSC volunteers are guided by the principles of engagement, innovation, passion, and excellence. Volunteers place a focus on the visitor, create a welcoming environment, and help make the connection between exhibit content and the world around us.

Enter the Flame Challenge. The Flame Challenge is an international competition where scientists answer the question in a way that is most appropriate for 11-year-olds. Entries will be judged by thousands of 5th and 6th grade schoolchildren around the world. The question for 2018 is “What is Climate?” You may answer in video (5 minute max) or written form (300 words max) for the Flame Challenge 2018. Get updates on the Flame Challenge here via constant contact.

Compete in the Young Scientist Seminars with iBiology. The Young Scientist Seminars are a new video series featuring talented PhD students and postdocs giving talks about their research and discoveries. The finalists are selected from a large pool of accomplished scientists from around the world in a competition held every year. Winners attend a science communication workshop in preparation for recording their research talks. The final videos tell their stories using an engaging mix of narrative, analogies, and visuals.

 (1) Escape the ivory tower:  a guide to making your science matter (2010), Nancy Barton, p103, Deliver a clear message.