To present data is human, to communicate data is divine

Finding new and engaging ways to communicate science is of paramount importance. But, how many opportunities are there to practice the art of communication?

That’s how I began the lead-in piece for a series of student posts over a year ago (see piece here and the student posts can be found here).

Giving students the opportunity to hone their communication skills is a must. They need to be adept at engaging with all sorts of people who will cross their paths … from policy makers to scientists in the same field to an interested person when you’re in the field.

Clichés are normally clichés for a reason …. practice makes perfect (or at least a lot better). 

I’ve been lucky enough to expand my Science Communication course at the University of Alabama at Birmingham since I last taught it two years ago this fall (time does fly … more about that in a future post on the meetings I was supposed to cover <<insert chagrin here>>).

Students in the first round were able to write a blog post about a topic of their choice. Each student that submitted the blog post to Jeremy and myself got them published. Not only did they learn how to distill the primary literature, but they each got another line on their CV.

Over the last academic year, I have taught an Evolution course and the revamped Sci Comm, in which grad students in both courses had the opportunity to write a blog post again. I was impressed with the quality and excitement in the first round. I also wanted to try to provide other opportunities for students. As regular readers will know, I have found my time at TME to be incredibly rewarding.

Starting next Tuesday, each week a new blog post written by a student from my graduate Sci Comm course or from the graduate section of my Evolution course will go live.

There’ll be another series of student-written posts in the new year from my new Conservation Genetics course. I’m hoping this can be a series that will continue each time I teach a course with grad students at UAB.

The more I think about science communication … the more I wonder.

Illustration by Maki Naro

Is science communication a bit redundant? Should we not simply communicate? It’s probably a philosophical argument best saved for another day when a two-year review, a late piece for a society newsletter, and several manuscripts aren’t looming.

I hope you enjoy reading the posts over the next few weeks as much as I did working with the students to turn these into publishable pieces of science communication.

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