Apply now for ComSciCon-SD 2018!
In many ways, science is like a foreign language. While the technical words that scientists use often mean very little to those not daily immersed in science, science is–at its heart–a logical process of asking questions and searching for answers. This journey of asking and answering does not require any extraordinary intelligence. It instead necessitates a constant curiosity and the ability to persevere through seemingly endless sets of failed experiments.
The reason that science often seems inaccessible to those not in a science profession is that scientists themselves often receive little training or practice in conveying their research to non-scientists without obscuring its meaning with a litany of technical terms. Equally as bad as using too many technical terms is overcompensating by over-simplifying the language in a manner that then seems condescending. Scientists need training in discussing their work at a high level of intelligence but in non-technical terms. This is something we are constantly trying to practice here at NeuWrite-SD.
Another large impediment to science communication is the fact that scientists often start professional talks or papers with an extensive foray into the background information behind their experiments. Tied to the formal flow of “background, hypothesis, methods, results, conclusions,” scientists often bury the key components of their work when they talk about it in a more casual setting.
Recognizing this gap in communication training, Harvard and MIT graduate students started a workshop for fellow graduate students in Boston in 2013: ComSciCon, the Communicating Science Conference. The organizers aimed to fill the training gap by providing a structured setting in which graduate students could learn important tenets of written and oral communication, and practice those skills with each other.
As the importance of science communication is gaining more widespread recognition, ComSciCon has expanded. A national conference is still held in Boston each year, but satellite local conferences have sprung up around the country to bring the same experience to more students in different communities. The first ComSciCon-SD was organized by NeuWriteSD alumna Rose Hendricks in 2016, with NeuWriters Catie Profaci and Jarrett Lovelett taking over as co-chairs in 2017. Applications are now open for ComSciCon-SD 2018!
ComSciCon-SD 2018 will be held Friday-Saturday, September 7th-8th on the UC San Diego campus. While the application is competitive, it is *free* to attend and includes a catered lunch both days (as well as copious amounts of coffee!). There will be three panels: Science Communication and Your Career, Connecting Science and Policy, and More Than Just Diversity: Why Science Needs Inclusivity. There will be workshops and activities to hone skills in both writing and speaking about research. In addition, there will be hands-on breakout sessions led by experts in different types of science communication–from producing videos and making graphics to grant-writing.
It is important to note that this workshop aims to cater to graduate students with a wide range of career aspirations. The organizers firmly believe that good science communication is an absolute necessity in academia, policy, science writing, and industry. Whether you are writing a grant, speaking to Congress, or writing about science for a general audience, principles of good communication can give you an extraordinary advantage!
We encourage graduate students in San Diego to apply now for ComSciCon-SD. If you are a graduate student in another city, check the ComSciCon website to see if there is a satellite conference happening in your area! And if you are not a graduate student but you would like to support the San Diego workshop, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always looking for new sponsors!