We Are All Science Communicators

A female civil engineer presents to colleagues.

Ask a dozen scientists what “science communication” is and you’ll likely get a dozen different answers. Many will say it’s synonymous with outreach or public engagement. Some will think of blogging or tweeting about science and sharing their work on social media. Others will focus on trips to K-12 classrooms or events at museums.

And all of those are great examples of science communication, but they represent only a tiny sliver of the science communication tasks that are out there. In a recent opinion piece for Physics World, Claire Malone wrote:

Perhaps we should rather consider science communication as a continuum. The communication skills scientists need to explain their findings to collaborators from different scientific backgrounds are not all that different from the skills needed to communicate with journalists or to non-scientists.

Claire Malone, Physics World OP-ed

This observation hews closely to my own view that science communication takes place any time a scientist shares technical information with someone from a different specialization. Put simply, every scientist and engineer has to share their work at some point; when they do, they’re engaged in science communication.

For graduate students, science communication may look like: sharing research updates in lab group meetings, presenting a slideshow or research poster, giving a lab tour, TAing, or writing a journal article.

Among postdocs and professors, science communication can include: preparing journal articles, convincing agencies to fund grant proposals, giving invited or departmental seminars, and teaching students.

In other words, science communication is a fundamental part of every scientist’s daily activities. Science communication is how we share our ideas and spread our interpretations; win our funding; get onto the same page with interdisciplinary collaborators; and teach our coursework.

And once you realize that we are, in fact, all science communicators, the next question to ask is, “How do we become better science communicators?” Helping you become that better science communicator is my passion. Stay tuned here at Sharp SciComm or join my newsletter so that you never miss a post, or you can get in touch directly for 1-on-1 consulting or to schedule a workshop.

(Featured image via Unsplash)

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