Seminar Takes Team
Approach to Science Communication

2016 Advanced Science Communication Seminar yields myriad of projects

Willy Goldsmith is a scientist who wants to share his work with others. As a National Marine Fisheries Service-Sea Grant Marine Resource Economics fellow and PhD candidate at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), he hopes to help better align fishermen preferences with fishery health. But he says that talking about his work with fishermen and other nonscientists can be difficult because “it can be hard to visualize economics.”

So Goldsmith enrolled in the Advanced Science Communication Seminar (ASCS), a semester-long professional development opportunity for graduate-level marine scientists who want to develop their skills in communicating to nonscientists, hosted by Virginia Sea Grant (VASG) and George Mason University’s Science Communication Department.

The fall 2016 ASCS was held via two in-person workshops, and lots of online interaction. Through the seminar, Goldsmith and 11 other students from VASG’s partner institutions, including four current and former Knauss fellows, and six VASG graduate research fellows, created products that communicate their research to stakeholders, such as infographics, videos, a song, and a photo essay.

“The purpose is to train upcoming scientists how to communicate their complex research and findings to a lay, focused audience, for example policy makers or elementary school teachers,” says Ian Vorster, VASG communications program manager. Vorster and Katherine Rowan, professor and director of the Science Communication Graduate Program at George Mason University, are ASCS’s main faculty.

“Ian Vorster and I, with the help of two George Mason science communication students, Allison Engblom and Erin Ziegler, wanted participants to come away thinking deeply and broadly about options for sharing their science,” Rowan says. “We also want them to finish the seminar with a useful outreach product that assists them in sharing their research.”

ASCS gives students the opportunity to approach science communication as a team—participants get feedback on their products from faculty, peers, and relevant stakeholders at two day-long workshop events.

“When scientists, communicators, educators, and stakeholders work in teams, they can find smart ways to make science accessible, useful, and sometimes, fun,” Rowan explains. In ASCS, Goldsmith created a photo essay about his research.

“I learned to start with what people are familiar with, so the first picture is something everyone can relate to: an excited fishermen holding a big bluefin tuna” Goldsmith says. “I’m leading with what’s important to them.” He printed his images on panels and is taking the presentation to the April meeting of the Stellwagen Bank Charter Boat Association, a Massachusetts-based group, to help him illustrate his research with this gathering of charter fishermen. He says he plans to use the science communication skills he learned in ASCS in the future as he gets into policy work.

See pictures from Willy Goldsmith’s photo essay below, and read captions for them here.

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