This post was written by Kayleigh O'Keeffe, a Ph.D. student in Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an organizer of the second annual ComSciCon-Triangle event which took place in North Carolina last month.
ComSciCon returned to the Research Triangle of North Carolina over two days in May. The workshop brought together 50 attendees from Duke University, UNC-Chapel Hill, NC State, and Wake Forest University.
The first day of the workshop, May 14, started with a panel on communicating science through your career. Panelists were all based in local universities and included Kara Manke, a founding organizer of the national ComSciCon workshop who is now a science writer at Duke. Attendees were able to learn that there is no one right way of getting into science communication, as all of the panelists had distinct career paths and experiences with science communication. In the afternoon, two communicators from Duke University led an active session on writing/editing fundamentals. After running through general things to keep in mind when writing for a public audience, they challenged attendees to think about the punch line of the pieces they would write for the workshop by coming up with a 5-word title and an attention-grabbing tweet for them. Attendees finished the day by then meeting in peer review groups to run through their ideas for these written pieces to get feedback and suggestions. Following the first day of the workshop, attendees wrote up their own pieces and were able to look over those of their group members.
Attendees returned for the second day of the workshop on May 21. The first panel of the day was on developing your online brand, which involved discussions of the future of social media, advice about blogging, and common threads from panelists from varying fields related to your public identity. The second panel of the day focused on science communication outlets in North Carolina. Panelists learned about pitching post ideas to existing blogs and about local outreach events.
During lunch, attendees met up again with their peer review groups, now joined by expert reviewers to help work through each piece. Our expert reviewers included many of the panelists, as well as additional communicators from Research Triangle area. Many attendees left with great advice for and ideas about their writing, and have the opportunity to work with publication partners to try to publish their work. One participant, Alissa Brown, has already published her piece with Hippo Reads!
The workshop ended with the closing keynote address from Joe Palca, a science correspondent at NPR. Joe comes from a science background with a PhD in psychology from UC Santa Cruz, and worked for Science and Nature before starting at NPR in 1992. His main focus at NPR has been “Joe’s Big Idea” which produces segments on the stories behind scientists and their innovations. At ComSciCon-Triangle, he spoke about how the integration of science in the news may be more likely to interest people who usually find science boring. The discussion of his career path further emphasized how important it is for attendees to seize opportunities fearlessly. His keynote was a great way to continue to think about science communication leading into a networking happy hour to finish off the day.
The organizing committee of ComSciCon-Triangle 2016 would like to thank our sponsors, Duke Graduate School, Duke University School of Medicine, Duke Science & Society, UNC Graduate School, UNC TIBBS, NC State University, NC State Graduate School, and the Research Triangle Park, for their generous support.