About the author – Dr. Allison Coffin is Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at Washington State University Vancouver studying acoustic communication and hearing loss. Over the past 10 years she’s taught communication workshops to a variety of scientific and professional audiences and was the Audience Choice winner at the 2014 U.S. FameLab Finals, a science communication competition hosted by NASA and National Geographic. She runs the science communication website communicatalyst.com and am a long-time member (junkie?) of Toastmasters International.
Why communicate your science?
You’re a scientist doing important and interesting work in conservation biology, right? You probably publish your research in reputable journals and give departmental seminars, but these reach a limited (and self-selected!) audience. Do you want your research to have a broader impact? Head the call of recent editorials by Chris Parsons and Andrew Wright, and learn to advocate for your science – get out and communicate!
Between online forums, public scientific discussions such as Science Cafés, and interactions with the 24-hr media cycle, there are more venues than ever for us to communicate our science to lay audiences. However, being willing to communicate isn’t enough. To quote a recent JCom article by van der Wurff and colleagues, “Scientists…supposedly aim for a serious and scientific style in which complex matters are unraveled and accurately explained, remaining uncertainties acknowledged, and ideas not too quickly taken for granted.” Does this sound familiar? For many scientists, our natural inclination (or perhaps, our training) makes it difficult to step out of this “information transfer” mode to connect with our audience. At its heart, communication is about connection. How can scientists connect with lay audiences, so that our message is both heard and received? This article is for all scientists who want to speak to the public, advocate for their science, and build their skills so that they can connect effectively.
Know your audience (more…)