Hello, World: How I plan to be a better STEM communicator

Columnist and Ph.D. student Sara Whitlock over at STAT recently wrote an article urging scientists to become better communicators. Go here and give it a read. It’s worth your time. One of her key points is that the majority of Americans don’t know any scientists.

When researchers don’t explain how we do our jobs and what the scientific method means, it’s harder for you to compare our conclusions and how we got there to stuff that’s dreamed up on the internet.

I am more than guilty of living inside the scientific/academic bubble. When budget cuts arise, or funding sources change, I grumble and then figure out how to get by with new constraints. It’s what engineers are taught to do at school and work, and it’s what we apply to real life. But, effective science communication has been ignored for too long. I’m getting my cleverly-worded signs ready for the Science March in DC, but April 22 is so far away.

What’s a gal to do in the meanwhile?

I can’t make grand, sweeping changes to society, but here’s what I can and will do:

  1. Write one letter to the editor per month about my research or a STEM-related topic. (Washington Post, get ready!)
  2. Volunteer at an elementary or middle school once per semester. Science fair judges are needed all the time, and what better way to help explain science than to teach the next generation about effective communication skills?
  3. Give a writing assignment about current events to my undergraduate students. We are members of the world, and should be aware of it. Proper grammar and sentence structure will be required.
  4. Write a blog post once every two weeks.
  5. Encourage/guilt/shame my wonderful STEM friends to write guest posts about their work.

Who’s with me?

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