Professionalism, professional development and training in science communication

08/07/2020

Despite Australian horse owners being encouraged to vaccinate their horses against Hendra virus to reduce the risk of this potentially fatal virus to horses and humans, vaccine uptake has been slow. Discourse around the vaccine has been characterised by polarisation and dissenting voices. In this study we interviewed horse owners (N=15) and veterinarians (N=10), revealing how expert knowledge, disqualification of lay knowledge and inadequate handling of uncertainty impacted divisive discourse around Hendra virus. We assert that more inclusive, reflective and ultimately more effective risk communication practices will result if the legitimacy of diverse knowledge sources and the inevitability of uncertainty are acknowledged.

22/06/2020

The Mission Mosquito Information Sharing Program (ISP), a collaboration between the U.S. Department of State and Battelle Memorial Institute, is a public diplomacy effort to build and expand an international network of health communicators to increase engagement on mosquito-borne disease. Nineteen professionals from countries experiencing mosquito-borne diseases engaged in a two-week multi-directional information exchange across the United States in May 2018. Program alumni applied knowledge and tools from the ISP in follow-on projects and public outreach campaigns in their home countries. This paper summarizes the ISP and lessons learned, and highlights a science communication case study examining skills and understanding gained.

24/02/2020

As science communication programs grow worldwide, effective evaluation and assessment metrics lag. While there is no consensus on evaluation protocols specifically for science communication training, there is agreement on elements of effective training: listening, empathy, and knowing your audience — core tenets of improvisation. We designed an evaluation protocol, tested over three years, based on validated and newly developed scales for an improvisation-based communication training at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. Initial results suggest that ‘knowing your audience’ should apply to training providers as they design and evaluate their curriculum, and gender may be a key influence on outcomes.

29/01/2020

Build SciComm, an international symposium on strategies for fostering science communication in Japan held at the University of Tsukuba in November 2019, brought together academics and practitioners to discuss issues faced by the field in Japan and vision for future direction. Informally, the symposium was well received and generally considered to be a useful and stimulating event. We discuss issues to be considered for future incarnations and explain why this symposium provides an important forum for inclusive discussions on fundamental questions about the nature of science communication in Japan.

14/10/2019

Reflecting on the practice of storytelling, this practice insight explores how collaborations between scholars and practitioners can improve storytelling for science communication outcomes with publics. The case studies presented demonstrate the benefits of collaborative storytelling for inspiring publics, promoting understanding of science, and engaging publics more deliberatively in science. The projects show how collaboration between scholars and practitioners [in storytelling] can happen across a continuum of scholarship from evaluation and action research to more critical thinking perspectives. They also show how stories of possible futures and community efficacy can support greater engagement of publics in evidence-informed policymaking. Storytelling in collaborations between scholars and practitioners involves many activities: combining cultural and scientific understandings; making publics central to storytelling; equipping scientists to tell their own stories directly to publics; co-creating stories; and retelling collaborative success stories. Collaborative storytelling, as demonstrated in these case studies, may improve the efficacy of science communication practice as well as its scholarship.

09/09/2019

Live science events engage publics with science in a social context. This article articulates the aims and ethos of this growing sector within a research context. Semi-structured interviews (N=13) and focus groups (N=77) were conducted with event practitioners (both professional and volunteers) in the U.S.A. and U.K.. Inductive thematic analysis indicated that event producers aim to raise awareness of and professionalism in the sector. In particular, they seek to develop research into long-term impacts of events for both audiences and practitioners.

01/07/2019

Astronomy has been an inherently visual area of science for millenia, yet a majority of its significant discoveries take place in wavelengths beyond human vision. There are many people, including those with low or no vision, who cannot participate fully in such discoveries if visual media is the primary communication mechanism. Numerous efforts have worked to address equity of accessibility to such knowledge sharing, such as through the creation of three-dimensional (3D) printed data sets. This paper describes progress made through technological and programmatic developments in tactile 3D models using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to improve access to data.

22/08/2018

The first Japan Scicom Forum in Tokyo on April 20, 2018 gathered nearly 120 attendees to discuss the growing need and demand for English-language science communication in Japan and Asia. Keynotes and workshops addressed both the philosophy and motivations for scicomm in Japan and also the best practices for international outreach. Global science communication has reached a critical mass in Japan but securing sustainable funding, integrating the community and retaining momentum present ongoing challenges. As an online community and (hopefully) a recurring event, Japan Scicom Forum will foster a network of science communicators, professionalize and legitimize the field and boost English-language science communication in a country where it is still nascent.

11/06/2018

We present an assessment of the Engage program, a graduate-student-created and led training program at the University of Washington. Using a pre-course/post-course study design, we examined student ability to deliver a short presentation appropriate for a public audience. Based on both self-assessments and assessments by external reviewers, we show that Engage trainees had an increase in their ability to employ effective communication techniques.

27/02/2018

The 10th World Conference of Science Journalists (San Francisco, U.S.A., 26–30 October 2017) was the most successful to date in terms of participants and probably the one with the largest presence of journalists from the developing world among its attendees and speakers. In agreement with the times, its themes were marked by ethical dilemmas in the communication of science, fake news and climate change, among others.

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