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

Enriquez P. GM-food regulations: engage the public. Nature (Commentary) [Internet]. 2017;548 (31). Publisher's VersionAbstract

Your call to harmonize rules for genetically modified (GM) animals and plants (Nature546, 327–328; 2017) echoes scientists' pleas to modernize the 1986 Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology. The framework grants jurisdiction over biotechnology products to US federal agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Yet urging researchers to scrutinize definitions and look for legal loopholes is impracticable. Increasing public education and engagement of the scientific issues concerning GM food should be researchers' main focus.

The importance of public engagement was illustrated decades ago with the use of recombinant bovine growth hormone in dairy cattle. The practice sparked widespread speculation about its safety and prompted the FDA's unprecedented decision to publish health and safety data ahead of formal approval, in efforts to allay public concerns (J. C. Juskevich and C. G. Guyer Science 249, 875–884; 1990). The decision applied only to that case, but may become relevant in the future.

Policymakers should consider the growth-hormone case when outlining new boundaries for data disclosure and regulatory exemptions applicable to gene-edited products. Regulations must take into account the interests of GM-product developers to ensure that public disclosures do not undermine intellectual-property rights (see also go.nature.com/2tcoezq).

Mantica G. Why we need more scientists in government. Boston Globe [Internet]. 2017. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Having grown up in Massachusetts, I love the idea of warmer winters. A winter where I will not have a $150 heating bill? A winter where I will not need to shovel for hours when it snows?

While warmer winters are convenient for my poor circulation and wallet, they are less convenient for other animals, like seals and polar bears. These animals live on Arctic ice, and if temperatures are high in the winter, their icy homes will melt.

Blanchard A. The Importance of Science Communication. Discover OSA, The Optical Society Blog [Internet]. 2017. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Science communication plays an increasingly important role in our society, but today’s PhD students have few formal training opportunities. The Communicating Science workshop for graduate students, formally known as ComSciCon, was created to help fill this gap by teaching science communication skills to graduate students from across a wide variety of scientific disciplines in an intensive four-day experience. ComSciCon is nonprofit and student-run, organizing workshops on both the national and local level. At these workshops, students convene with science communication experts and learn via a combination of hands-on creative activities, panels, and small-group and one-on-one discussions. The workshop is funded by a combination of academic entities (MIT, Harvard, UC-Boulder), scholarly societies (AASACS, and OSA) and media organizations (Institute of Physics publishing, Science, astrobites, and HHMI Tangled Bank studios). At the national workshop, all 50 students’ travel and housing was fully funded to promote a more inclusive representation.
Jones S. Science for All: Shifting Academic Communication at ComSciCon. UCSD Qualcomm Institute News [Internet]. 2017. Publisher's VersionAbstract

“Whose advisor is unhappy that they’re here today?” asked Leanne Chukoskie, an assistant research scientist at the Institute for Neural Computation at UC San Diego and an affiliate of the Qualcomm Institute. Looking around at a sea of raised hands, she continued, “Know that the act of writing clearly for the public and preparing well supported arguments is an incredibly important skill.”

San Diego’s second annual Communicating Science workshop (ComSciCon) was held September 15-16th at the University of California San Diego Qualcomm Institute, drawing researchers (primarily graduate and postdoctoral) from all over Southern California who wanted to hone their communication skills through a combination of lecture, discussion, and hands-on workshops.

 

"At the Qualcomm Institute, our approach is to be somewhat blind to disciplines, to do research that doesn't necessarily begin with a particular discipline as a starting point," said Ramesh Rao, director of the Qualcomm Institute. "Even if you're an engineer, for example, and you want to get into the neurosciences, here you can wade right in. But it also requires that researchers learn to communicate in other 'languages,' so to speak. Knowing the key terminology and ways of thinking in other disciplines is a pathway into that discipline."

ComSciCon began in 2013, and the first national conference—sponsored by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology—was held in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Since then, a growing number of local ComSciCon workshops have been popping up all over the country.  

 

Hendricks R. ComSciCon: Science Communication Workshops for Graduate Students, by Graduate Students. PLOS Blogs [Internet]. 2017. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Publishing in scientific journals has long been a linchpin of success in science. But many scientists want their work to enrich the lives of the public and positively influence society. They’re increasingly realizing that communication solely among scientists is not sufficient for meeting those goals. Science communication (scicomm) is growing rapidly, and many organizations have begun to play a part in helping scientists improve their scicomm skills.

ComSciCon is one organization committed to doing just that. ComSciCon is a workshop series organized by graduate students, for graduate students, focused on leadership in science communication. Each year since our inception in 2013, we’ve held a national conference where 50 attendees from around the US converge with invited experts from a range of scicomm backgrounds for three days of discussions and hands-on workshops.

More

Donate to ComSciCon

ComSciCon's sponsors and patrons make it possible for graduate students to participate in our programs free of charge.  Your donations support our work!   Click here to find out how.

Your tax deductible donation will be received by The Story Collider on behalf of ComSciCon.

@ComSciCon