Science communication (also called #scicomm) is a skill. It involves sharing science with a larger audience, beyond Academia, in an understandable way. Effective science communication relies on a delicate balance between too few details and too much information, which can confuse a non-expert audience. Above all, it should be entertaining and tell a story. With all these considerations, science communication may appear intimidating, especially for early-career scientists. I hope to convince them to start their own scicomm journey in this article.
Why is it important?
Science communication is crucial to our societies. It allows the public to understand obscure concepts and twisted theories. It aims not to “dumb down” science but to create a bridge between the public and science and get people excited by scientific discoveries. Additionally, it generates future scientists by inspiring young individuals to pursue research.
Early-career scientists in science communication
I believe that early-career scientists are not only relevant in science communication, but they are also needed. Early-career researchers have three main advantages when it comes to communicating with the public:
- They are relatable and approachable since they are probably less intimidating than a senior researcher.
- Since they perform most of the new research published, they are perfectly knowledgeable.
- They can engage the public easily because they were part of the public not so long ago and have not lost themselves in the scientific jargon yet.
Therefore, early-career scientists have the opportunity to restore trust in science by being knowledgeable yet approachable.
If you are an early-career scientist, keep reading!
Why aren’t more young scientists involved in science communication? Here is the sad reality: doing science communication is underappreciated, often unpaid, and it takes a significant chunk of time away from doing actual science. Sometimes, early-career scientists believe that fully dedicating themselves to their research is the only way to contribute to society and advance their careers. But what if I told you that you could do both by engaging in science communication?
Giving back to society
Most of our research funding comes from public funds, i.e., the public contributed financially to scientific findings. By engaging in science communication, early-career scientists can find a way to give back to society and ensure the knowledge generated is given back to the public in an accessible way. As an early-career scientist, you can also bring a fresh pair of eyes and new creative ideas to transfer knowledge to society. It could be through art, social media, videos, citizen science, etc.
Get new perspectives
In case you need extra convincing, science communication can improve the quality of your research and your prospects as an early-career scientist. First, finding the right approach and the right words to explain your research to the public allows you to gain new perspectives on your work. You can try it today with a family member or a friend: try to explain and convince them of the importance of your work. You could start finding new metaphors to explain complex scientific processes. It might take some time, but by explaining why your research is relevant, you could start to see your research differently. It might open new doors for you and change how you approach your research questions.
Develop new skills
Engaging in science communication can also help you practice and improve your presentation and writing skills. You might have once attended a dull conference presentation with far too much jargon for scientists to enjoy. Science communication helps you practice conveying the main idea of your newest research in an accessible and potentially fun way. It may help you deliver more exciting talks at your next conference!
Finally, science communication can help you get more funding and network opportunities. Universities, funding agencies, and recruiters are paying more and more attention to scientific communication. It is quickly becoming a desired skill that you can transfer to other career options (if you ever decide to branch out from Academia). So what are you waiting for? Jump on the #scicomm train, and broaden your horizons!
What did you think of this post? Make sure you check our other tips for early-career researchers.
Anaïs is the founder of Whale Scientists. She is a PhD student at McGill University working on killer whale ecology and pollution. You can read more about her here.