The final day of ComSciCon'13 included a poster session where attendees shared with each other the innovative and exciting science outreach and communication collaborations they are engaged in at their host institutions around the country. The attendees' poster abstracts are below:
The Broader Impacts Group (BIG), a student organization based at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and MIT, brings together graduate students with a common interest in sharing their science to wider audiences. BIG brings science out of the lab, developing skills in workshops on media such as radio, blogging, and public speaking as well as providing public outreach opportunities for students and scientists to apply communication skills. BIG facilitates an active dialog within a diverse network of scientists and communicators from all spheres: writers, photographers, artists, and hands-on educators among others. BIG continues to seek dynamic collaborations to get the word out and make science BIG.
The Robinson Center for Young Scholars is a program at the University of Washington that brings exciting and challenging courses, in a university setting, to local gifted kids in the Seattle area. Additionally, the Robinson Center conducts research to evaluate the effectiveness of its program and "best practices" in gifted education.
English is the lingua franca in the world of science. As a result, the production and consumption of new scientific knowledge comes with an initial hurdle for the non-English-speaking world. This linguistic injustice asymmetrically penalizes the participation of non-English-speakers in science by limiting their access, and hinders the development of a global scientific community. In other parts of the knowledge-producing world, I'm fortunate to be involved as a subtitle translator with TED.com's Open Translation Project, which widens TED talk access to non-English speakers. What similar efforts will communicate science to a global audience? Anyone interested in starting a multilingual science blog?
Public communication, a role increasingly played by the researcher, is necessary to secure our scientific future and create a more literate society -- yet we can go through graduate school without taking a single class in communication. We must empower scientists to talk about their work starting at the graduate level. At Carnegie Mellon University, we are piloting a public communication training program, including themes such as media interaction, distilling a message, and improv techniques for communication. We are also working to provide practice opportunities. Our vision is for similar training to become part of graduate education around the country.
Liz M. B. Doran
As I complete my current review paper on characterizing sustainability science, I am looking for collaborators who want to bring the science/literature of sustainability together, likely in a web-based format similar to the astrobites/chembites sites. The topical content is broad but connects natural resources and the environment to society and the economy with contributions from academic disciplines ranging from political science, earth science, biology, ecology, engineering, economics, etc. To be successful, I am looking for a range of collaborators. I have not settled on an audience, but undergraduate, graduate or professional practitioners are the leading candidates. My goal is that the project provide a forum for new scientists interested in the field to educate, network, learn, and stay informed as this so called "transdisciplinary" science continues to mature and impact society.
Storytelling is a powerful tool. And the National Science Foundation (NSF) recognizes that. For example, the NSF supports the science-driven public radio program RadioLab. Program creator Jad Abrumrad laments a notion, shared by many scientists, that pits story and science at odds: "Science, by it's very nature, wants to obliterate the anecdote and metaphor and personal reflection in favor of pure data." At the same time, these narrative elements are what allow great storytellers to lead people to moments of wonder. Can we resolve awe-inspiring science communication with scientific objectivity? The meteoric popularity of TED talks, many by the NSF's most celebrated grantees, provides favorable evidence. Of course, the TED-like approach to communication -- idea-driven, emotionally compelling, narratively structured -- is absent from graduate STEM curricula. Instead, graduate-level instruction prizes the peer-to-peer sharing of scientific detail. That's a lost opportunity. We students are mostly new to our field, freshly inspired by big ideas or the universal truths that only science allows. We're still very much connected to wonder -- a phenomena that can grip the public's attention and ground the stories that reveal the interconnectedness of science, technology, and emerging global challenges.
The Duke/UNC Scientists with Stories Project started as an idea, formulated by students frustrated by the chasm between scientists and the public. This idea has been implemented on the small scale. Its goal, however, is nationally relevant: empower the next generation of scientists to not simply distill facts but share the wonder and relevance of science beyond the ivory tower. Audio, photography, and web video lend themselves to narrative structure and public dissemination. In collaboration with my peers, I propose an instructional initiative for all STEM curricula, one that empowers students to master digital media, share research through narrative, serve community needs, and collaborate across disciplines.
"A Day in the Life in Physics at Ohio State University" is a blog aimed at showing young people, especially females, a sense of what it is like to live a life in physics. We aim to have a wide variety of perspectives by bringing in writers of different backgrounds, education levels, and genders to tell a story of their daily life or something or someone that has inspired them. Through Facebook and Twitter we also post about current events in science related to the blog and public science opportunities in the OSU area.
Tyler R. Jones
A project I am considering is an undergraduate science, media, and communication class or extracurricular group focused on active student learning rather than passive memory exercises. Students would spend a semester thoroughly exploring a current scientic research subject at their university through film, photography, graphic design, art, and journalism, with the final product being a simplied and visually exciting expert guide of the subject. These guides would be posted on a dedicated outreach website, used as a teaching tool, and shared with the general public.
Getting girls interested in STEM fields can be difficult. Art is a powerful medium that relies on several different mediums, including soil. Teaching students that science is integrally important to all forms of art can help cultivate positive attitudes for students that are not traditionally interested in scientific fields.
Non-scientists have been expressing increasing interest in learning about the brain. Part of this draw presumably comes from the knowledge that the brain is the seat of our consciousness, and by understanding it, we understand ourselves. At the moment, while brain science is increasing in schools, there are not many opportunities for adults to learn about and discuss these issues. I would like to initiate events targeted for adults where leaders in neuroscience and related fields engage in a round table discussion regarding current issues, followed by a reception to encourage the audience to discuss the ideas amongst themselves.
John S. Mancini, Pravin Muthu
Two Minute Reactions: Stories of Chemistry at Emory University
Two-Minute Reactions is a series of video vignettes, which highlight the research and motivation of successful chemistry faculty at Emory University. The goal of the series is to digest the technical knowledge and interests of chemistry faculty into engaging and accessible stories. Each episode focuses on a single chemist, investigating a concept such as where their ideas come from and how they address problems in their field. The stories are told through self-narration by the chemist of interest with scientific points elucidated by novel CGI animations and footage of laboratory work."
While many environmental monitoring campaigns rely heavily on citizen scientists to gather data, these projects rarely take full advantage of modern networking resources to engage and train volunteers. Here, I discuss the potential of online videos and social networking tools for recruiting, training, and retaining volunteers for a multi-year Great Lakes pollution monitoring project. I present plans to use online tools to improve the consistency of volunteer sampling procedures and promote participant awareness of the larger goals and impacts of the research project.
YouTube is a fascinating platform for science communication; its strength lies in the value placed by the YouTube community on "lean-forward" content. YouTube allows for audience engagement through the text-based comments common to most internet blogs, but it also allows viewers to upload their own video responses. Furthermore, it is ideal for communicating a love of science because the audience actually sees the creator's excitement, something not possible in traditional blogging. This year I started The Physics Factor, a YouTube channel for sharing my personal love of physics with the world and which I will describe to you today.
"Health Professions Recruitment & Exposure Program (HPREP) is a nation-wide high school enrichment program organized by medical, Ph.D., and public health students to recruit underserved and underrepresented high school students into science and medicine. As a pipeline program of Student National Medical Association (SNMA), it aims to eliminate disparities in physician and scientist training, health care treatment, and health care access.
HPREP is a nine half-day Saturday program comprised of interactive lectures on basic science, health/medicine, and life management; lab sessions; a research project with one-on-one mentoring from a medical/graduate student; workshops on writing skills; and college preparation.
How do you integrate current astronomy research into non-major coursework? How do you give more graduate students the opportunity to teach autonomously? Though these are separate challenges, both might be addressed with the creation of a single course. The course would be divided into sections, each of which would be taught by a different graduate student. While most of the content would mirror traditional introductory astronomy material, each set of lectures would be selected to illuminate an outstanding research question of the instructor's choice. The course could end in students exploring an astronomy topic for themselves.
The New England Climate Adaptation Project is an action research project investigating the effectiveness of tailored, science-based role-play simulations as a tool for catalyzing collective coastal climate change adaptation. This project is a collaborative effort involving the Consensus Building Institute, MIT, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, and four partner towns in New England. Together, we are: 1) assessing local climate change risks facing our partner communities; 2) evaluating local concern about climate change and potential barriers to adaptation; 3) engaging the public in our partner towns through use of role-play simulations, an experiential learning technique; and 4) evaluating the effectiveness of this intervention as a way for stimulating collective adaptation planning and implementation.
The goal of my project is to increase scientific literacy and college readiness in high school students by taking advantage of the framework already used to effectively teach challenging literature. Scientific literacy in this case principally means understanding what a peer-reviewed, published paper looks like and how it differs from popular literature. Primary scientific literature provides useful substrates onto which teachers can apply their existing lesson plans and reach Common Core standards. Science education is important in high schools regardless of location. However, rural schools have special circumstances that position them to benefit disproportionally from scientific literacy education.
In both the STEM and communications fields, there are determined efforts being made to recruit underrepresented minorities. Arguments for doing so range from developing a more innovative workforce to providing a venue for voices that would otherwise be unheard. An area that remains unexplored, however, is the melding of the two: recruiting underrepresented minorities in the field of science communication. Enhanced diversity can help frame science communication by encouraging the coverage of culturally-sensitive issues, such as environmental justice and the interplay between Western and non-Western medicine. Growth can be realized by pursuing this opportunity in concert with existing recruitment initiatives.
Science outreach through different approaches: the value of research and enthusiasm
Insects (and most other invertebrates) have a PR problem: they are typically portrayed as either dirty pests, or wondrous tropical butterflies far out of the realm of most people to understand and appreciate. My goal is to present insects and other ""creepy crawly"" organisms in a way that is approachable and relevant to peoples' lives. I want to encourage curiosity, inquiry, and wonder. One approach is through exposing the inner-workings of an entomological laboratory. My blog CaterpillarBlog.com is used to highlight research happening in the lab where I am a graduate student. I feature photos, stories and research about caterpillars and other insects. Another approach is through my handmade stuffed animals, sold through WeirdBugLady.com. By turning typically loathsome animals into realistic cuddly plushies (along with relevant biological info and taxonomic hierarchy) I hope to reach out to people who otherwise would never call a tomato hornworm ""cute"". I believe successful scientific outreach requires both scientific facts and genuine enthusiasm.