Public Engagement Reflections

2017 Leshner Fellow Sylvie Garneau-Tsodikova shares her experiences as a fellow and encourages scientists to apply for the upcoming cohort.
What gets you to pay attention to the news? Probably a relation to your life in some way, right? That’s how advertising works and products are sold. At its core, science communication is essentially the selling of information. And it’s something scientists do constantly! What they sometimes fail to do is consider the feedback, the review, or the exchange with their buyers, which is necessary, as importance to the general public is why grant foundations are rapidly requiring outreach.
Opportunities show up when you least expect them! In today's blog, Kathleen Hefferon shares her story of how a communicating science workshop helped her feel ready for an unexpected opportunity to share her research.
Dr. Nic Kooyers, assistant professor at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, shares how his citizen science project helps hikers provide data about conditions along the Pacific Coast Trail.
Susanna Harris, a Ph.D. candidate in microbiology at UNC-Chapel Hill, discusses how she reaches graduate students via social media to decrease stigma around mental health disorders.
Alex Martin shares the story of his sidewalk science center and his plan to grow his science communication and public engagement brand, Experience Daliona.
Saarah Kuzay, a PhD candidate at the Dubcovsky Lab of University of California Davis shares how storytelling helped her become a more effective science communicator.
This year, I joined a group of professors and students to help plan a local science festival called Everything is Science (EiS). The idea of EiS is to facilitate scientific outreach in Lexington, KY, in venues and ways the public might not expect. During 10 events over the course of three days, local scientists, professors and graduate students gave informal talks about their research in breweries, cafés, bars and restaurants. The topics included regional favorites such as bourbon distilling and horse racing, as well as more modern themes such as LGBTQ+ health disparities and personalized medicine. My role consisted of finding and coordinating host venues for EiS, but it was not limited to that, as I designed advertising materials, contacted speakers, helped with other logistical tasks and even emceed three events. I have previously been involved with several other scientific outreach events such as Earth Day celebrations, traditional science festivals and a TEDx conference, but none of these taught me as much as I learned through planning EiS.
In Part I, I provided background for thinking about science topics such as evolution that can be challenging to discuss productively in some contexts. Now I’ll share one approach that has worked well for me in informal settings.