As more scientists recognize science communication and public engagement as an essential part of their job, the demand for training in this area has grown, as have the types of training available and the number of training organizations. In December 2017, the Kavli, Rita Allen, Packard, and Moore Foundations convened representatives from several of these science communication and engagement training programs to discuss opportunities and challenges in the field. Building on that work, in December 2018, the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science and COMPASS partnered with the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative and the Kavli Foundation to convene the SciComm Training Summit, to support sharing best (and worst!) practices and to work toward professionalizing the field of science communication training. Since then, the group convened for a second meeting in October 2019 and now a new team of leaders is taking the SciComm Trainers Network into its next phase.
“There are lots of groups out there working in science communication and engagement, but this group is specifically for trainers. It includes people who have come up through these other groups, and now are positioned as powerful levers: we have the opportunity to influence how the next generation of ‘engagers’ do their work,” said Eve Klein, of the Institute for Learning Innovation. She and her colleagues on the new core team for the network, Elyse Aurbach of the University of Michigan, Darcy Gentleman of DJG Communications LLC, Rose Hendricks, Kavli Civic Science Fellow, and Jai Ranganathan of SciFund Challenge, just launched a public website, www.sctn.online. This begins the process of opening the network to others who are interested in joining.
This work ties into the 2019 white paper co-authored by Aurbach and Lindenfeld, as well as Katherine Prater (University of Washington School of Medicine and co-founder of the University of Michigan’s RELATE program) and AAAS’s Emily Therese Cloyd: Foundational Skills for Science Communication. The paper describes the key considerations in science communication training and suggests questions to ask when preparing to engage with an audience related to each skill category (e.g., messaging) and element (e.g., message prioritization & distillation). The authors gathered feedback on the paper at a special session at the 2020 AAAS Annual Meeting, and a portion of the paper will be featured in the third report in the American Academy of Arts & Sciences Public Face of Science series. More translational work like this may feed into the SciComm Trainers Network and provide a basis for new trainers and training programs.
The network intends to hold its third convening later in the year, likely with expanded participation, while acknowledging that creating a community requires more than once-a-year meetings. The core team agrees that the purpose of the network will evolve as it expands, to continue meeting the needs of its membership, but certain principles like equity and inclusion will permeate all aspects their work – including broadening participation in the training community. Relatedly, Gentleman noted a central goal is to show that becoming a science communication trainer is a viable career path, perhaps particularly for those with science backgrounds who decide to move away from research. Ranganathan added that the network is not trying to end up with fewer, bigger training organizations. Their overarching goal is to help everyone do better, faster.
For more information about the network, go to www.sctn.online and follow them on Twitter @SciCommTrainers.