The Particle
Published in

The Particle

12 Ways to Get More Involved with #SciComm as a Graduate Student

Credits: Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

Last week, someone asked me, “How do you know of so many opportunities for SciComm?” This question puzzled me, as I have no magical skills or tried and true methods. I realized I’ve just been on the lookout for a while, slowly gathering ideas from Twitter, friends, mailing lists—and I figured it could help someone else if I share some of the opportunities I’ve found here.

  1. Go to ComSciCon
The author (bottom right) with fellow astronomers at ComSciCon flagship 2019 in San Diego, CA.

ComSciCon—the Communicating Science workshop for graduate students—is an excellent opportunity to hone your skills and meet other like-minded scicommers, available across the U.S. and even internationally. If you’ve already done a bit of SciComm and want to take it to the next level, apply for the flagship conference, which brings together communicators from across the country. There are also chapter workshops (where absolutely zero experience is necessary) across the world to build your skills, so you can find one near you and get involved!

2. Go to ReclaimingSTEM

ReclaimingSTEM started out as a small local conference in Southern California, and has grown to be a massive online event and network. Each Fall they host a virtual workshop that aims to train diverse scientists “how to communicate their science at the intersection of research and social justice” with programming that “accounts for the challenges minoritized groups face.” It’s an inclusive, radical, inspiring space that brings together people interested in science communication, policy, advocacy, and education to create a better future.

3. Apply to write for a Science Bites site

The Science Bites family of sites takes new research papers in a specific field and publishes digestible summaries of them each day. They are entirely grad student run—writing, editing, management—and cover many different fields and languages, from astronomy in Arabic to microbiology in English. I personally am part of the Astrobites collaboration, and it has been a great way to practice writing and editing, build my network, and build my writing portfolio (not to mention, just a whole lot of fun, too!).

4. Sign up to be a pen pal with Letters to a Pre-Scientist

A classroom on letter opening day with their LPS letters. (Image Credits: Letters to a Pre-Scientist)

Letters to a Pre-Scientist (LPS) is one of the lowest time commitment outreach opportunities on this list—but that doesn’t mean it’s any less valuable. With LPS, you get the chance to be a pen pal with one young K-12 student for a whole school year. Through the program, you write four letters back and forth, answering your pen pal’s burning science questions and showing them that scientists are just normal people, too. LPS also has training to prepare you for your letters, with emphasis on a notoriously tricky skill—writing for younger audiences!

5. Volunteer with Skype a Scientist

Skype a Scientist is another low time commitment opportunity, and it can be so much fun. When you sign up, you’ll get matched with classrooms who want to talk to a scientist to get their questions answered by an expert and meet a real life scientist. Remember being a kid and thinking that the classroom guests were the COOLEST people in the whole world? With Skype a Scientist, you get to be that person! (Plus, you can practice your speaking skills!)

6. Write lesson plans with BiteScis

Interested more in the education part of SciComm? BiteScis might be the place for you. This cool initiative (related to Science Bites) writes short summaries of research papers and integrates them into K-12 lesson plans, giving students exposure to real, cutting-edge scientific research. As a scientist, you can just write the “bite” part (the short summary), or you can work with an education specialist collaboratively on the lesson plan, too!

7. Get #scicomm training from Massive Science and write your own articles

Massive Science is a great place for scientists to write about their work—you’re provided with resources and training, AND you get paid for everything you write. You can get practice pitching in a safe and supportive environment (since you do still have to pitch ideas to the editors) as well. They also have shorter form lab notes, which don’t require a pitch or as much of a time commitment and can be a fun way to practice writing about science news.

8. Join NPR SciCommers

The NPR SciCommers initiative (formerly known as “Friends of Joe’s Big Idea”) aims to bring together scientists and engineers interested in science communication all across the country. Their online community has over 1600 members, and is a great place to see what others are up to, share your work, look out for opportunities, and learn from others.

9. Join the National Association of Science Writers (NASW)

If you’re seriously thinking about science writing, NASW is the place to go. They have great resources for science writers, including a list of jobs and opportunities. They also have a mentorship program each summer, where you work with an established writer on a news piece and can ask them whatever career questions you have!

10. Help with outreach events in your own department / at your institution / in your area

The UCLA Planetarium, the author’s local outreach group. (Image Credits: UCLA Planetarium)

Of course, close to home is always a good place to start. Almost every institution has some sort of outreach or communication effort, and it’s easier to get involved when you already have a foot in the door by being a member of that institution. There are also science museums and other groups across the world—see which ones are near you! I personally love giving talks at amateur astronomy clubs, and have also been involved with UCLA’s Planetarium.

11. Look into press resources from your professional society

Part of the job of a professional society is to help publicize the science of their members, so most societies have dedicated publicity teams and press resources. You can get involved in that, especially if you’re a member of the professional society! Get to know who the press officers are, go to a few press conferences at your next society meeting, and if you can / if they have one, get on the press release mailing list.

12. Get on social media

A ton of great SciComm happens on social media nowadays—I mean, it makes sense given how much time people spend on there! Share science news, facts you’re excited about, your life as a scientist, anything you want. Follow other people doing SciComm to learn from them, and you’ll probably find even more SciComm opportunities and collaborations as you go! (You can follow me on Twitter, but admittedly I focus more on my dog there than SciComm.)

And of course, you can join me here and write for The Particle! Apply to be a contributor here.

Disclaimer: This list is (obviously) not exhaustive, and is also quite U.S.-centric since it’s based in my experiences.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Briley Lewis

Briley Lewis

astronomy graduate student, dog & plant mom, person who always says “this is the year I write my novel” [she/her]