Week 9: Practicing Safe Science Communication, and Popular Writing

We will start this week with your three minute thesis talks. A one-hour lecture will follow, preparing us to move beyond the ivory tower in the subsequent weeks of this class.

You’ve rocked the ivory tower, and you’ve found something you think the world needs to know. In this lecture, we’ll explore how to take your message beyond the scientific community - and how to protect yourself while doing so. One barrier to science communication is the fear of one’s research being miscommunicated, twisted, or manipulated - and we can all recall examples of this happening. We will explore some famous cases of public science mishaps, and we will apply the technique of ‘accident analysis’ to identify where these cases went wrong. I will argue that many problems can be avoided with preparation - and applying the ‘safe science communciation’ approach can avoid or mitigate some of these issues.

Lecture Topics

  • Communicating beyond academia
  • Recall: Why communicate?
  • The relationship between communication and advocacy
  • Practicing Safe Science Communication:
    • Publish your work
    • Prepare your messages
    • Pick appropriate venues
    • Practice, practice, practice
    • Perform
    • Abstaining from scicomm is not effective
  • When Sci-Comm goes bad: Examining high profile Sci-comm disasters

Prepare in Advance

Please bring your three minute proposal talk on a USB stick

In-class Activities

  • (At start of class) Three minute thesis talk
  • Comparing media coverage to primary literature
  • Introduction to the popular writing assignment


Lecture slides

Slides available via speakerdeck