Since the beginning of The Pub Club it has been one of our primary goals to help Undergrads, Grad students and Post Docs improve their ability to communicate their science. Indeed, the whole idea behind the “Community of Minds” as stated in our Mission is “to share information on scientific breakthroughs, to generate and exchange ideas, to solve problems, and to discuss topics relevant to being successful scientists.” In other words, to communicate. Whatever else is listed in a job posting you can be sure you will see “excellent verbal and written communication skills.” As we reference later in this post there are real “cultural” and “practical obstacles” to achieving these skills, but we cannot overcome obstacles we do not address.
In this article on The Conversation website (brought to our attention by a tweet from our friends @MSUAgBio): “Science Communication Training Should Be About More Than Just How to Transmit Knowledge”, they discuss the changing world of science communication and the need for the scientist to change with it. Within the ranks of the science community it is growing ever more important for scientists to be able to communicate their work, not just with each other, but to the rest of the world as well. Two of the several organizations referred to in the article are AAAS and COMPASS. We all know who AAAS is, in fact they are one of the inspirations for The Pub Club referenced in our Mission History. COMPASS has only been around for 15 years, but they are becoming an influential force in the world of science. Here’s what these two organizations have to say and what they are doing in response to this Global shift.
AAAS alone has more than a dozen awards relating to advancing science communication outside the world of science. They even have “communication workshops” the goals of which “include building scientists’ communication skill and confidence in engaging with public audiences and providing best practices for use of different communication methods and mechanisms.” Their most popular workshop “is 3 hours and covers the basics of science communication and public presentations. It is intended for 30-50 people. Costs for this workshop start at $2,500.”
In their Mission Statement COMPASS says: “We also believe that knowledge is too often languishing in technical journals and scientific circles while society must forge ahead with decisions.” and that “In contrast to our early days, science communication is now widely discussed, taught, and promoted. Despite the growing enthusiasm, many cultural, financial, and practical obstacles still challenge scientists who seek deeper engagement.” In order to improve and overcome this situation COMPASS’s main effort is training scientists through what they describe as: “Our in-depth, interactive trainings are designed to help scientists communicate what they do, what they know, and why it matters, in clear, lively terms.” Over their 15 years of existence COMPASS has developed training programs and workshops with “options ranging from three-hour seminars to five-day workshops on science communication in the context of journalism, policy making, and social media.”
I think the case is made. We have to put a concerted effort in attaining and honing our ability to communicate. Unfortunately, often the greatest obstacle we face is ourselves. We read the overwhelming evidence that we must… yet the fear at the mere site of the mountain turns us away. You know what, NO ONE got to the top of Mount Everest in one leap. They begin with what could be called a leisurely stroll into the foothills and slowly work their way up. Even before that they train, they eat right, work out, study maps, research the best gear, etc. Likewise, you don’t have to go give an hour speech at a conference, or worse yet, a public interview describing your work. Start at the foothills The Pub Club provides. Come to the weekly gatherings on Fridays and offer a science update you came across. Comment on the Hub website then participate in The Hub Net forum. As your comfort grows, write a post and/or lead a topical discussion on a Friday. This is the purpose of past opportunities The Pub Club has offered like: “elevator speeches, faux interviews, recruitment participation, the Skype conference with Weigel World,” even the “BBQ and meeting and snack hosting.” Our Friday meetings have been and always will be open for you to practice presentations, prelim and doctoral defense in a supportive constructive environment. All of these things provide the opportunity to get comfortable communicating with others and some train us to better communicate our science, but none of them cost $2,500 dollars. For those not at MSU we welcome you to take advantage of the opportunities ThePubClubHub.org website has to offer. Comment on a post, if you are part of a Lab anywhere, register to participate in the “Hub Net” Forum, or even just drop us an email from the form at the bottom of our Mission page. The “Community of Minds” is much bigger than just The Pub Club and we welcome you to it. Finally, look around. I’m sure there are opportunities everywhere to begin climbing that communication mountain!
Recently, while browsing the “GradHacker” blog (a Pub Club Favorite) there was this article “Blogging to Establish Your Digital Identity” by Katie Shives from GradHacker, (started here at MSU by our own Katy Meyers Emery) Katie S. leads us to a logical place where we might improve our communication skills while creating our own digital identity, or, as we at The Pub Club like to call it, our professional portrait. Communication takes many forms as COMPASS addresses in their training quote, and the more forms we master the better we will become at the others. The Pub Club first used Katy Meyers Emery’s Blog Post from 2013 “Manage Your Digital Identity” as inspiration for the post “Can You See Me Now? How To Be Visible In Today’s Job Market” Followed by “Is Your Professional Portrait a Picasso or A Da Vinci?” Yes, these are about twitter and LinkedIn and personal blogs, otherwise known as “social media” but what’s wrong with getting more than one return on only one investment? Read through the links in this post including the ones just mentioned. This is the map through the foothills and up the mountain. Read it and find your path.