French blogger Mathieu Rouault asked professors from UT’s Science Communication Center (SCC) for advice to scientists regarding science communication at the International Conference on Science Communication in Nancy, France this past September. Their answers prompted Rouault to write that the information was the most important of the conference and that Europeans should take note of the information and put it into practice. Something Rouault says is not currently being done. Professors Legg, Littmann, and Hirst (UT English Dept.) presented a session titled “Training Student Scientists to Communicate Science in Writing and Speech” at the International Conference on Science Communication, held in Nancy, France, this past September. They covered writing for the popular science press, improving your scientific voice, and how these simple suggestions would aid scientists while in school, should they stay in the Academy, or in the corporate world.
While at the conference, they were approached by a contingent from the University of Oslo, Norway, who were convinced of the need for training of this kind and have been working with the SCC since then to eventually lead training sessions for faculty in Norway for.
The SCC is in the process of gaining official status with UT. The Science Communication Initiative (SCI) has already been actively participating in University of Tennessee grants, but it is not yet an organized research unit. It was formed in 2004 as a proposed component for UT NSF IGERT grants, which required a communications element.
Dr. Cynthia Peterson adopted the proposal for science communication instructional services into her NSF IGERT SCALE-IT and NIH PEER grants, which were approved and funded in 2008. The organization began offering workshops and tutoring for doctoral students in quantitative biology when the first class arrived on campus in 2009. The science communication training helps students write and speak more effectively to professional and lay audiences, thereby benefitting science by clarifying research and engaging the public and government officials by providing science that is understandable.
SCI is already a leader in what scientists and science communicators internationally are recognizing as a critical need. Interest in and the perceived value of SCI comprehensive science communication training has resulted in SCI faculty being invited to present workshops at several venues in just the last few months:
• International Conference on Science Communication in Nancy, France, September 2012
• University of Oslo, Norway – to train their professors so they can offer SCI-like courses and workshops to their student body
• International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities in Budapest, June 2013