What is ComSciCon?

ComSciCon is a series of workshops focused on the communication of complex and technical concepts organized by graduate students, for graduate students.  ComSciCon attendees meet and interact with professional communicators, build lasting networks with graduate students in all fields of science and engineering from around the country, and write and publish original works.

Recent Publications by ComSciCon attendees or about ComSciCon

Bain KO'KR&. ComSciCon-Triangle: Regional Science Communication Training for Graduate Students. Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education [Internet]. 2018;19 (1). Publisher's VersionAbstract
The ability of scientists to effectively communicate their research, and scientific ideas in general, with a variety of audiences is critical in both academic and non-academic careers. There is currently a dearth of formal and informal science communication training opportunities for graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. This curriculum paper introduces ComSciCon-Triangle, a graduate student–organized science communication workshop for graduate students in STEM at research universities in the Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, region. Started in 2015, this annual workshop aims to empower graduate students to be more engaged in communicating their research with the public as well as with fellow scientists. Each workshop consists of interactive panel discussions with invited science communicators (science writers, academics, filmmakers, etc.), informal networking opportunities with invited guests and other attendees, and hands-on sessions for improving oral and written communication skills. Analyzing pre- and post-survey data from all ComSciCon-Triangle attendees from 2015 to 2017, we find that workshop attendees feel significantly more confident in their ability to communicate scientific ideas with both the general public and with other scientists, and more confident submitting a written piece to a popular science publication or journal. We discuss how ComSciCon-Triangle serves as a model for local science communication workshops “for graduate students, organized by graduate students.”
Gibson C. Researchers, locals testing how industry could impact Fort Good Hope's water. CBC News [Internet]. 2018. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The morning starts like any other for the local environmental monitors in Fort Good Hope, N.W.T. — laid out across the storage room floor are boxes of clear glass bottles, GPS units, batteries, and an array of equipment that at first glance looks like something from a sci-fi movie.

Environmental monitors from Fort Good Hope are joined by an Environment and Climate Change Canada researcher to do water sampling from local wetlands in the Ts'ude niline Tu'eyeta (Ramparts River and Wetland) area.

    Wright TA. How to Create a Science Policy Group: A checklist for graduate students. Scientific American - Observations [Internet]. 2018. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    Most of the graduate students I work with are spending the bulk of their time in lab, teaching or preparing for required departmental examinations—ultimately, preparing for future careers. During our undergraduate training and even at the graduate level, most of us are led to believe our career options are limited to academia, industry, government or alternative careers. This narrows the areas of science we are exposed to—including science policy.

    The cornerstones of science policy include, but are not limited to: science advocacy, scientific communication and science-based policymaking and legislating. As most of us matriculate through our graduate school careers, we begin to notice the need for increased funding in science, a disconnection between science and the public, and a host of other issues—issues we can fix.

    Volpatti L. Two Communication Fellows report back from ComSciCon 2018. MIT Communication Lab news [Internet]. 2018. Publisher's VersionAbstract
    “Science is chocolate. Science is not broccoli. We don’t need to trick people into liking it,” insists Liz Neeley, Executive Director of The Story Collider and keynote speaker for ComSciCon 2018. Over two jam-packed days in downtown Boston, graduate students from all walks of science converged for a workshop on communicating science to answer the question: how can we effectively use communication to maximize the impact of our science on our intended audience? Among them were two MIT Communication Lab Fellows: Josh Peters and I. Josh is a first-year Communication Lab Fellow in Biological Engineering who was introduced to the conference through fellow writers in the Massive Science Consortium, a community of STEM researchers supported by the science publication Massive. As a second-year Comm Fellow in Chemical Engineering, I applied to the conference in order to explore novel topics in science communication and bring them back to the MIT Comm Labs – while also sharing the Comm Lab model with others.
    MacKenzie CMD. On Story Telling. PLOS Ecology Community blog [Internet]. 2018. Publisher's VersionAbstract
    At ESA 2018, there will be a ComSciCon workshop: “Story-Tell Your Science with ComSciCon: The Communicating Science Workshop for Graduate Students.” I attended the incredibly rewarding three-dayComSciCon in Boston in 2015. The ESA ComSciCon workshop agenda includes a write-a-thon session “where attendees can receive expert feedback on a piece of writing from a media of their choosing, from experienced academic communicators.” The write-a-thon was one of my favorite experiences at ComSciCon: I workshopped a podcast script — though I had absolutely no podcast production experience — and I basically abandoned the idea at the end of the workshop in June 2015, tucking my notes into a folder, filing it away while I went back to fieldwork and dissertation-writing. Then, last summer, my postdoc advisor suggested my name to the organizers of TEDx Piscataqua River. I had about a week to create a pitch for a TEDx talk — while I was in the middle of preparing for ESA 2017, packing to move to Maine, and submitting my final dissertation edits. But, I had that old ComSciCon folder. I dusted off the podcast script, re-wrote it as a talk pitch, and sent it to TEDx Piscataqua River. That talk — “Botanizing with my 19th century girlfriend” — is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.**
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