Publications

2018
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.**
Sanders N. Communicating your science with help from ComSciCon. AddGene Blog [Internet]. 2018. Publisher's VersionAbstract

I believe that communication is the single most important skill that scientists need to succeed in their work. While it's not always recognized and valued for its immense importance, it may well be what determines whether you get the job after your next interview or whether your receive the next grant you apply for.

After all, the only value your work will have in the world is the value that you can succeed in communicating. Even the most rigorous, insightful, and novel scientific research will be wasted if you cannot convince others that it is important and relevant to them.  

Soldati A, Hosler S. Explain Yourself: “Not all lava flows are the same” with Arianna. The Roving Naturalist [Internet]. 2018. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Sheryl talks with Arianna Soldati (@AriannaSoldati on Twitter) about her research on volcanos, lava flows, and how they impact human safety. We also talk about being a grad student in a different country, being a "girly-girl" and also doing field work, and Arianna's passion for bringing accessible science education to rural people in her area.
Hosler S. Interview on Public Radio's Blue Dot. Blue Dot [Internet]. 2018;106. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Sheryl Hosler, aka The Roving Naturalist, joins us for her report on strange lifeforms on our own planet that emit their own light in a story about bioluminescence.
Soldati A. The Floor Is (Usually) Not Lava. Scientific American - Observations [Internet]. 2018. Publisher's VersionAbstract
We tend to imagine that below the crust, Earth is a seething pool of molten rock—but it’s not
Clossey E. WITH COMMUNICATING SCIENCE CONFERENCE, EMERSON HELPING SCIENTISTS TELL STORIES. Emerson College News & Events [Internet]. 2018. Publisher's VersionAbstract

On the surface, Professor John Craig Freeman’s augmented reality installation Imagining the U.S./Mexico Border: Migration Stories has more to do with political science than natural science.

But Freeman, a public artist who teaches in the Visual and Media Arts Department, and School of Communication Dean Raul Reisbelieve that augmented reality (AR) and its close cousin, virtual reality (VR), have vast potential for telling the most pressing stories of science—climate change, public health, biotechnology, renewable energy, etc.—in a way that absorbs and engages the public.

Freeman will give a talk on Imagining the U.S./Mexico Border during Communicating Science (ComSciCon) 2018, a national workshop series to advance storytelling in the “hard” sciences. Founded by graduate students at Harvard University and MIT, and organized by graduate students across the country, the series is being hosted by Emerson College June 14–15.

Landis E. Science Communication Close to Home. The Central Sulcus (Emory Neuroscience) [Internet]. 2018. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Learning how to communicate science to the public is vital for graduate students today; however, many programs do not offer formal training in communication. This gap has been filled by ComSciCon, an annual science communication training conference organized by and for graduate students interested in learning how to share their science knowledge with the wider world. ComSciCon is a national body which has given rise to a handful of regional meetings now joined by ComSciConATL. Organized by four graduate students (including our own Anzar Abbas), ComSciConATL brought together 50 graduate students from the Atlanta area and greater Southeast region in early March to learn science communication skills through interactive workshops, panels and networking with local experts, and collaboration between fellow attendees.

Hendricks R, Gurel P. Communicating freely: ComSciCon. eLife Interviews [Internet]. 2018. Publisher's VersionAbstract
A workshop series organized by graduate students in the United States aims to help young scientists explain their research to broad and diverse audiences.
Ganguly P. Why is it so hard for scientists to talk about leaving academia?. Massive [Internet]. 2018. Publisher's VersionAbstract

During the second year of my PhD program in psychology, I found myself on the verge of quitting. I was overwhelmed by the pressures of graduate school, feeling bouts of imposter syndrome, and struggling to do research independently. I had considered other non-academic jobs but never had the gumption to discuss it with anyone, especially my adviser. Those were dark days.

In February of that same year, I learned of an opportunity outside academia. A university email mentioned that applications were open for a national science communication conference called ComSciCon. The goal: to teach STEM grad students how to better communicate complex and controversial scientific topics to non-scientific audiences.

Clements T. My experience at ComSciCon Houston 2018. Science Baller [Internet]. 2018. Publisher's VersionAbstract
I had a great experience at Com Sci Con Houston, which is a conference on communicating science for graduate students and Post-Docs!
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.”
Bailey K. Graduate Students Host Science Communication Conference. Georgia Tech News Center [Internet]. 2018. Publisher's Version
Ngumbi E. The Joys of Scientific Outreach. Scientific American Blog [Internet]. 2018. Publisher's VersionAbstract
...Earlier this month for example, graduate students from the southeastern U.S. gathered at Georgia Tech to learn more about science communication. Their meeting was part of a larger initiative called ComSciCon that organizes science communication workshops for graduate students across the country....
Loftus S. Lessons in science communication: Part 1. Duke Fuel for Thought [Internet]. 2018. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The 6-hour round trip from Beaufort this weekend was worth it to take part in ComSciCon – Triangle, a science communication workshop “for graduate students, by graduate students.”

ComSciCon participants’ goals are to further improve how we communicate science to the public, to network with other like-minded professionals and to discuss the field of science communication. UNC graduate students planned the entire event, which included an amazing line-up of panelists and speakers. Check out #comscicontri on Twitter to see first-hand perspectives of attendees and speakers. This weekend was just Part 1 of ComSciCon Triangle, with the next part taking place on April 7.

2017
Montgomery K. And So Jaye Told a Story. JKX Comics [Internet]. 2017. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This all happened because a twitter post, and a whim. I didn’t know what applying meant. I didn’t know what to expect once I got there. But because of that I found myself waving to the crowd like a debutante in a parade.

I’m naturally extroverted – off the scale really – but I didn’t think that my wave would make me have to speak in front of everyone. At least not again. I already did that in the 1-minute impromptu pop talk where I called HIV, the virus responsible for AIDS, “bad news bears”. But unbeknownst to me a microphone stand had spontaneously spawned into the middle of the room and I was suddenly surrounded by the unbridled cheers of >50 people I met just the day before.

Hosler S. Biophilia: Is Nature Good for you? . The Roving Naturalist (YouTube) [Internet]. 2017. Publisher's VersionAbstract
E. O. Wilson first described the concept of "biophilia" in his book by the same name. Ever since, the idea has fascinated social scientists and nature enthusiasts alike. What does biophilia mean to you? Can you identify moments in your life when you feel the effects of biophilia?
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.  

 

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