For scientists interested in building their public engagement skills, the first challenge is often finding training opportunities and connecting to others with similar interests. An upcoming online “teach-out” offers a free, flexible opportunity to do both. Stand Up for Science: Practical Approaches for Discussing Science that Matters will be held May 5 – 7, although participants can join for as much or as little of it as they like. This event is being hosted by the University of Michigan’s Office of Academic Innovation and RELATE (a science communication and engagement training program originally developed by graduate students).
Teach-out organizers are hoping to reach scientists, engineers and science enthusiasts around the world, including people from outside of the usual science communication circles. Elyse Aurbach, one of the organizers and a co-founder of RELATE, emphasizes that training is important for incorporating science communication into your workflow in a sustainable way. People need to build skills, confidence and a network, rather than trying to “strike out on your own.”
"The teach-out is an opportunity to try and harness some of the enthusiasm for getting more publicly engaged after the March for Science, as a mechanism for people becoming more engaged throughout the course of their lives and careers. In other words, we want this to be a first step in a much longer sequence," said Aurbach. RELATE, like AAAS, encourages and trains scientists to engage in two-way dialogues with the public, to help make their research more relevant to society and work toward a wide-range of other public engagement goals.
The teach-out will include an interview with Emily Cloyd, project director for public engagement at AAAS’s Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology, and will point participants to some of the Center’s resources. "We’re very excited to be included in the teach-out,” said Cloyd. “As scientists, we can contribute to the civic dialogue about a wide range of issues where science and society intersect. However, we also have much to learn from other participants in that dialogue, and it is essential that we engage with the public respectfully.”
There are four main components of the teach-out, and participants can “choose their own adventure” and join for any or all of these. The discussion forums will be active through May 7, and the rest of the content will continue to be available through May 12:
- Overview on why science communication and public engagement are important and how engagement changes for different audiences
- Series of discussions about engagement and some of the controversies and concerns that come with it (from sharing what kinds of science communication experiences participants have had, to why bidirectional interactions are important)
- A skill development component that borrows from the lengthier RELATE training to address audience, messages and narratives
- Opportunities to explore local and national public engagement opportunities and help participants define next steps to becoming better communicators
Other opportunities and programs the teach-out will highlight include the AAAS Communicating Science Workshops, COMPASS, the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, ASBMB’s The Art of Science Communication, The Story Collider and Sense About Science. Many of these groups participate in the AAAS-managed Public Engagement with Science Group on Trellis (the online platform for scientific collaboration), a forum where scientists, practitioners and researchers can exchange information on best practices and opportunities. Like the teach-out, this group connects science communication research to practice, with the goal of improving the outcomes and effectiveness of engagement efforts.