Designing Effective Science Communication


Although many would prefer to leave science in the past and no longer engage with it once completing compulsory science classes in school, the reality is that engaging with science is an integral part of our daily lives. Moreover, for the safety and wellness of human society, it is necessary to engage with scientific information. We are faced with the necessity of examining scientific evidence on topics ranging from conservation to public health and make decisions that impact not only our families but those around us. However, in spite of decades of science education reform and dedicated efforts to improving science literacy, many members of the general public lack the confidence, skills, or interest in engaging with scientific issues, instead choosing to align their scientific decisions with non-scientific stakeholders, such as political or pop culture figures. These problems are ongoing and destructive. How do we communicate science more effectively with the general public? With other scientists?

This course is designed for scientists, science educators, and science communicators who are interested in re-thinking how we communicate science to diverse audiences, particularly to the general public. Topics include evidence-based considerations of human learning as well as effective communication through a variety of modalities, including oral presentations, written forms of communication, technology, and artistic media. The objective of this course is to equip learners with the skills needed to design and implement effective methods of science communication. Learners will be able to identify key principles of human learning that undergird science communication, describe pitfalls in “popular” avenues for science outreach, and apply best practices to science communication in a variety of media.

What you will learn

Connecting the Science of Learning to Science Communication

In this module, you will learn the basics of human learning, including an overview of the cognitive processes that underlie learning (e.g. perception, attention, motivation, memory), major educational psychology theories (e.g socioculturalism, constructivism, behaviorism) and aspect of human cognition that can lead to difficulties with outreach (e.g. bias, motivated reasoning, epistemic cognition). We will also discuss use of evidence in designing outreach, how to evaluate types of evidence, and principles behind effective design of outreach.

Speaking of Science: Oral Presentation

In this module, you will learn important considerations for effective oral presentations, including best practices for giving live, recorded, and virtual presentations. In addition, we will also cover best practices for creating visual supports (poster, PowerPoint slides) to help communicate your message during an oral presentation. We will also discuss best practices for media interviews.

Writing Science: Written Communication

In this module, you will learn best practices for writing as a vehicle for science communication. Rather than focusing on grammar and general writing mechanics, this section will focus on how to effectively use the written form as a tool for science outreach, including how formal scientific writing varies from pieces for the general public.

Decoding Science: Technology Based Communication

In this module, you will learn about technological forms of science communication outside traditional media (e.g. written or oral communication). In this module, we will discuss how science is communicated through various forms of educational technologies, including computer games, simulations, and social media. We will also briefly discuss learning analytics and their utility in understanding learning in technology-based environments.

What’s included