Last week I had the privilege of attending a full day ‘Science Communication‘ workshop at UC Davis. I have a long history of appreciating those skilled in communicating science as I idolize many science writers (shout out to Carl Zimmer), look forward to my monthly National Geographic issues and spent many rainy days during my childhood watching wildlife shows through the Discovery Channel ( especially David Attenborough’s films!). However, I do not feel that I have reached my potential in the art of science communication (particularly to the general public)- and I think many other scientists share this sentiment.
Thus I am excited to share some of the tidbits that I learned about science communication (You can find the full presentations and recordings here: Link)
In the morning we started out with Kat Kerlin (Press officer and Science Writer for UC Davis) and her talk on ‘Communicating Science, Creating Trust: Can You Take a Message’ … with key take homes being: 1) have a CLEAR message and know your message, 2) combine your personal and professional work to make it more appealing to others, 3) don’t just discuss the general trends of your work, but give specific examples to tell a story- (ie: How is something specific impacted by something general?), 4) start with the impact/importance of your work before you get to the nitty-gritty and the background of your study system, 5) use analogies to describe your work to people that might be unfamiliar with your study system , 6) share your enthusiasm!, 7) create trust by forming people to people connections.
Next we had a social media specialist Sallie Poggie (Social Media Strategist for UC Davis) on “Effectively Using Social Media for Science Communications”. A couple take homes I took from Sallie were: 1) you don’t have to engage with trolls, and not all trolls are real people (some are bots!), 2) if you do engage on social media: “you should have ‘Elephant skin, and velvet gloves’ – you need thick skin and roll with the punches”, 3) make sure that the messages you are delivering translate to the community that you are speaking to (Ie – speak or write in spanish if you are speaking/writing to a hispanic community), 3) social media- such as twitter, is a way to self publish your findings and reach out to the masses- it can also direct attention to your work, result in new connections and potentially a job, 4) understand the social media platform that you are using, and use your privacy settings wisely, 5) don’t publish something unless you are ok with millions of people reading it and having your name attached to it for the rest of your life…. (dang!).