Human Connections Through, With & For SciComm: #MySciComm 2017 in Review

Rebecca Johnson
#MySciComm contributors had a lot to say in 2017 about how scicomm and engagement can build human connections and are stronger and more effective because of it. (Photo: #MySciComm contributor Rebecca Johnson, at center, co-directs the Citizen Science program at California Academy of Sciences; photo by Alison Young.)

Retrospective by Bethann Garramon Merkle, series co-editor and Communication and Engagement Section chairperson

Certainly, there is much to be learned from #MySciComm contributors regarding how to incorporate scicomm into research and how to transition into a scicomm career. But we, the editors, think the humanity this series exposes is equally important.

#MySciComm shows us the people behind the science.

In looking back through the #MySciComm contributions from 2017, I noticed that our contributors take that human element a step further. Contributors are museum staffers, research scientists, journalists, professors, and more.

In their experience, science communication and public engagement work is dependent upon human connections.

They make these connections by producing compelling scicomm, by doing effective engagement. They learn to do so by listening to their audiences, as well as the advice of peers and mentors. They have met collaborators, funders, clients, and friends as a result of taking scicomm risks, reaching out for and offering help, and being committed to the messages they work to share.

Above all, these contributors epitomize our conviction: while the processes of science are, importantly, as objective as we can make them, the people doing, sharing, and learning about science are, and must be, human.

Here are some ways to build human connections, as recommended by 2017 #MySciComm contributors.

1. Ask for help.

Caitlin Looby reminded us to ask for help finding science communication opportunities including journalism and public engagement activities. Shane Hanlon highlighted connecting with individual people and institutional resources like the Communication and Engagement Section, AAAS, COMPASS, and more. William Chen emphasized the importance of seeking out mentors who not only provide opportunities and guidance, but also advocate for your science communication work. Rebecca Johnson encouraged us to listen, ask questions, and respect others’ experience and expertise. And, Virginia Schutte highlighted the pros, cons, and necessity of coming to terms with not being part of an academic hierarchy if you fully leave science.

2. Use scicomm as a force for good. Rose Hendricks noted scicomm and engagement can be used to amplify others. And, Caitlin Looby affirmed that communication and engagement professionals can “be the change” by doing scicomm that makes scicomm and science more inclusive.

3. Think of scicomm and engagement as a conversation.

Skylar Bayer asserted, “If you want to communicate your science, you have to hang out with your audience.” And, Ramesh Laungani found it most effective to be open and willing to talk about science through a conversation rather than a one-way lecture.

4. See scicomm as a community. Join it, and cultivate it. Sarah Prather noted the best scicomm comes from collaborations, and Diogo Verissimo confirmed that building a diversely skilled team was essential for his most recent major project. Priya Shukla recommended finding a community within the scicomm community that is focused on the specific aspect of scicomm you want to do, such as #marginsci on Twitter. Stacy Krueger-Hadfield highlighted empowering and supportive scicomm networks for scicomm professionals. Kika Tuff has found Twitter a powerful tool for connecting with scientists and science communicators outside of your immediate network. And, Rebecca Johnson cautioned: “Social media is fabulous, but don’t sacrifice the person-to-person interactions.”

What would you add to this list?


And, stay tuned! Next time, Jennifer Purrenhage will take a look at #MySciComm 2017 tips that may be especially helpful for those new to scicomm or looking to transition to a career in scicomm.