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7 Resources for Honing Your Science Communications Skills in the New Year

7 Resources for Honing Your Science Communications Skills in the New Year
College of Natural Sciences graduate students take part in a fall science communication workshop.

There's good news for anyone in our College of Natural Sciences community who has put "communicate better about my work" on their list of New Year's resolutions for 2018. UT Austin and others here in Central Texas have several resources and upcoming opportunities to hone your science communication skills. And with the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting coming February 15-19 to Austin for the first time, it's the perfect excuse to brush up.

1. Attend BEACON's Public Engagement Workshop.

This workshop for scientists will focus on how to connect with and frame your message for different audiences and how to engage effectively with policymakers. Texas State Representative Donna Howard, a nurse and former health educator, and Stephanie Chiarello Noppenberg, a senior policy analyst and community educator, will teach attendees how to speak science to power. February 5, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. University of Texas at Austin campus. Video conferencing is available. Free. No experience necessary. Registration closes January 15. Space is limited.

2. Compete with a Three-Minute Thesis.

Master's and doctoral students have the perfect opportunity to perfect that elevator pitch. Presenters have three minutes to talk up their research and will be judged on comprehension, content, engagement and communication. A workshop to prepare for the competition will be held January 26, 12-4:30 p.m. The competition is February 8. The winner will go on to the 2018 Regional Competition in Fayetteville, Arkansas on February 24. The event is free. Registration is required.

Explaining your thesis in minutes or visiting a public school class are among the engagement opportunities this spring.

3. Volunteer for Classroom Science Days.

In conjunction with the AAAS annual meeting, organizers are working to put scientists in local classrooms for two days, Feb. 15-16. Graduate students, postdocs and professional scientists are being recruited to talk with middle and high school students in Austin-area schools about their work, giving short, "TED Talk"-style presentations. Training is provided. After presenting to teens, presenting to anyone else will seem like a breeze.

4. Spend a Saturday at SciComm South.

Science communicators of all types will meet in Austin for a one-day conference, and scientists and students will be among the attendees. Highlights include a keynote address by David Biello, science curator for the TED Conferences, and breakout sessions on networking and collaboration. January 13 in the afternoon. Huston-Tillotson University in Austin. Cost: $55 if registered by Jan. 12; $80 onsite registration. Student registration is $25.

5. Try these AAAS annual meeting offerings.

The 2018 AAAS Annual Meeting in Austin will have workshops, panels, seminars and discussions about science communication and public engagement skills, including:

  • ​The annual Communicating Science Seminar, which focuses on different aspects and approaches to communicating about science with members of the public.
  • ​The Engaging Scientists and Engineers in Policy Discussion, a town hall-style session about how scientists and engineers can engage with policymakers.
  • Share Your Science: Scientists can visit this booth in the Exhibit Hall to record short videos about their work, scientific interests, community activities or anything else they'd like to share. AAAS staff are available to provide a brief consultation.
  • Sci-Mic Stage: AAAS is inviting science podcasters to interview participants about their work and expertise. These interviews can be seen by a live audience, in-person and on social media.
  • Science Storytellers is looking for scientists to join them at the Family Science Days booth. (Family Science Days is a free public science event on Saturday and Sunday of the conference.) In this booth, kids will interview scientists in the manner of science journalists. To volunteer, email Jenny Cutraro at jenny@sciencestorytellers.org
Star parties happen almost weekly and are a great example of an on-campus opportunity for public science engagement.

6. Enjoy and engage in ongoing outreach.

The University of Texas at Austin has opportunities year-round to engage in public outreach, sharpen those science communication skills and observe other scientists as they share their work with the public. There's Explore UT, a free event coming up on March 3 that opens the campus to the public with science talks, demos and more. There's the Girl Day STEM Festival, coming up February 24, when more than 8,000 elementary and middle school students (boys are welcome, too) descend on campus to learn about career paths in science, math, technology and engineering. There also are monthly offerings like Science Under the Stars, UT Brainstorms, Hot Science – Cool Talks and more. For a full list of outreach opportunities, click here. To sign up to be an outreach resource, register with Texas STEM Connections.

7. Browse more science communications tips and resources online.

The College of Natural Sciences Office of Communications has a series of tip sheets to help scientists communicate their work more effectively. The newest tip page on science communication includes a round-up of several excellent resources to support your public engagement efforts, a sign-up for a listserv dedicated to campus science communications training opportunities and news, and on-campus and in-the-community groups dedicated to practicing the skills you learn.

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