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ComSciCon-Triangle: Regional Science Communication Training for Graduate Students

    Authors: Kayleigh O’Keeffe1,*, Reggie Bain2,3
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    Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599; 2: Department of Physics, University of Houston, Houston, TX, 77204; 3: Department of Physics, Duke University, Durham, NC 27710
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. March 2018 vol. 19 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v19i1.1420
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    Abstract:

    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.”

References & Citations

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2. Pace ML, Hampton SE, Limburg KE, Bennett EM, Cook EM, Davis AE, Grove JM, Kaneshiro KY, LaDeau SL, Likens GE, McKnight DM, Richardson DC, Strayer DL2010Communicating with the public: opportunities and rewards for individual ecologistsFront Ecol Environ829229810.1890/090168 http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/090168
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6. National Science FoundationInnovation in Graduate Education Challenge2013https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/gradchallenge/
7. Denecke D, Feaster K, Stone K2017Professional development: shaping effective programs for STEM graduate studentsCouncil of Graduate SchoolsWashington, DC
8. Smith B, Baron N, English C, Galindo H, Goldman E, McLeod K, Miner M, Neeley E2013COMPASS: navigating the rules of scientific engagementPLOS Biol114e100155210.1371/journal.pbio.1001552236375753640098 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001552
9. Slenn T2012Reaching out: Harvard student organization – science in the newsNat Soapbox Scihttp://blogs.nature.com/soapboxscience/2012/06/06/reaching-out-harvard-student-organization-science-in-the-news, posted 6 June 2012
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13. Kedrowicz AA2016The impact of a group communication course on veterinary medical students’ perceptions of communication competence and communication apprehensionJ Vet Med Educ431810.3138/jvme.0615-100R1 http://dx.doi.org/10.3138/jvme.0615-100R1
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2018-03-30
2018-08-18

Abstract:

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.”

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Figures

Image of FIGURE 1

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FIGURE 1

Confidence communicating with various audiences. Histograms showing the self-reported level of confidence (from 1 to 9, where 1 = “not at all confident” and 9 = “very confident”) of attendees before and after attending and fully participating in a ComSciCon-Triangle workshop. Plots (A) and (B) show attendee confidence in communicating with the general public and scientifically trained audiences, respectively. Plot (C) shows the level of confidence attendees have with submitting a popular science piece to a journal or publication. Plots (A), (B), and (C) each have a value of < 0.001, suggesting a significant improvement in attendee confidence in each case after participating in a ComSciCon-Triangle workshop. Exact values are shown in the figures, which show aggregated response data from all three (2015, 2016, 2017) workshops.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. March 2018 vol. 19 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v19i1.1420
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Image of FIGURE 2

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FIGURE 2

Confidence communicating with various audiences. Changes in confidence levels are shown for communicating to three audiences: popular science outlets, other scientists, and the public. Before and after attending and fully participating in a ComSciCon-Triangle workshop, participants self-reported level of confidence (from 1 to 9 in each category, where 1 = “not at all confident” and 9 = “very confident”). Each point represents the change in confidence level for an individual attendee after attending ComSciCon-Triangle. Red circles show data from participants in the 2016 workshop and blue triangles show data from participants in the 2017 workshop. The violin plots illustrate kernel probability density. The width of the outlines represent the proportion of data located there. Areas in which the width is wider indicates that more points fall in that range; for example, the highest proportion of data for “Submitting to Popular Science Outlet” is located at approximately a change in confidence level of 1.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. March 2018 vol. 19 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v19i1.1420
Download as Powerpoint

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