Five Ways to Locally Engage in Science Communication
News Article by Liz Albertorio, MS and Volunteer Coordinator for the Rochester Museum and Science Center
“What is science communication?” or “where would I even start getting involved in science communication?” are probably questions you may have asked as you progress in exploring career interests. Today, more than ever, we as scientists, need to continually be engaged with our communities to foster trust and an understanding of the impact that science and technology has in our lives.
What is science communication?
Everybody has a different (and sometimes personal) definition of what is science communication. Personally I like the definition that says that science communication are “the processes by which the culture and knowledge of science are absorbed into the culture of the wider community” (Bryant in Burns, O’Connor & Stocklmayer 2003, p. 191).
Where to start?
1) Sign up for a science communication-related course:
In campus, courses are offered aimed at helping students hone their written and verbal communication skills. One example is the Science Communication for Diverse Audiences (MBI 492) that aims at providing an introduction to those interested in learning more about what is science communication.
2) Attend a science communication conference
There are many conferences held through the US that focus in science communication. One example is ComSciCon, a student-led conference organized to expose students to the different areas within science communication. The main conference is held in Boston, but they also have regional counterparts such as the one that takes place in Cornell University.
3) Create a hands-on science tabletop activity
Do you have a science concept that you can translate into a hands-on activity? Science centers, such as the Rochester Museum and Science Center aim at engaging the public with hands-on, minds-on demos brought by local scientists and engineers.
4) Write a blog (in more than one language!)
Write a short (300 to 400 words) article about a science concept or technique that fascinates you. You can show a video of fluorescent cells that you took or write about a scientist who made a great impact in society. As much as possible, focus on the relevance of what you are writing about to culture and society. You can easily publish this through your LinkedIn, personal blog/website or twitter account and get feedback. If you speak a language other than English, consider having two versions of the blog to reach an even greater audience.
5) Write to your senator or representative about why funding science is important.
Regardless of partisan affiliation, I encourage you to contact your local senator or representative to let them know your support for research. Many legislations and bills (that may or may not involve science directly) call for feedback from the community. This is a great exercise to think about the big picture of your research, and how it can impact the everyday lives of people in our communities. Great resources on how to do this can be found in the Advocacy Tool Kit, supported by the Federal of American Societies For Experimental Biology (FASEB).
What other opportunities can you take advantage?
Several graduate students have become interns at the Life Science Learning Center (LSLC), directed by Dr. Dina Markowitz. At the LSLC graduate students have the opportunity to teach science to diverse groups of middle and high school students. It is a great introduction for those graduate students who may want to continue a teaching path after graduation.
Faculty at the University are also involved in science communication, specifically through informal teaching. Dr. Keith Nehrke and a group of volunteer graduate students bring hands-on activities to Rochester city district school-age children. In a very informal setting, graduate students and faculty volunteer to design, create and deliver engaging science lessons.
Liz Albertorio just finished her Masters dissertation from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology while serving as the volunteer coordinator for the Rochester Museum and Science Center. She is an advocate for the involvement of scientists with the community through science outreach activities. If you are interested in getting involved in ways #3 and 4# contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter: @lizalbertorio The views she has expressed in this article are solely hers.
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