Science Communication Training at Duke Ace media interviews, engage policymakers, and sharpen the tools needed to share your science with any audience. Scroll to read more.

Researchers Open New Doors With SciComm Training

Communicating science to news outlets or through social media were not skills that Ryan Shaw, Assistant Professor in the Duke School of Nursing, learned well in his PhD program, he says. And Shaw’s experience is not unique. Few scientists have access to formal communications training, which presents a problem in the world of 24-hour news cycles and disappearing grant funding.

To begin to correct this problem, the Duke Initiative for Science & Society created the Science Communication Fellows Program in 2014. Shaw and 19 other Duke science faculty were part of the SciComm Program’s first cohort and received training in communicating their science to the public, policymakers, and the media.

“Getting scientists excited about my research is great,” says Ephraim Tsalik, Assistant Professor of Medicine and member of the 2014 SciComm cohort. “But getting these other audiences excited has opened up new opportunities that I did not think would be possible,” he adds.

Since completing the SciComm Program, Ephraim Tsalik worked with the Duke Office of News and Communications to get the word out about an exciting new publication. As a result, he and his research team “were inundated with requests for media interviews,” he says. Tsalik shared his work with journalists from CBS News, Forbes, TIME, and many others.

Due in large part to the intensive media interview training he received as part of the SciComm Program, he says that the interactions he had with the media were successful. “I have developed new research opportunities, collaborations, and funding as a direct consequence of this media engagement,” Tsalik adds.

The 2016 SciComm Fellows Program

The 2016 SciComm Fellows Program, which is now accepting applications from Duke science faculty and postdoctoral fellows, will take place on three half-days (September 16, October 7, and October 28) this fall. SciComm Fellows will gather in the Collaboratory, Science & Society’s new space at Erwin Mill to practice acing media interviews, engaging policymakers, and sharpening the tools needed to share their science with any audience.

2015 SciComm Fellows

The SciComm Program also offers a chance to connect with scientists across campus, and the opportunities don’t end with the Program. Tsalik recently joined two other 2014 Fellows for a meeting with Congresswoman Renee Ellmers (D-NC). And last fall, four 2014 Fellows—Shaw, Nina Sherwood, Kathleen Pryor, and Pate Skene—shared their science with the audience at Motorco Music Hall for Periodic Tables, Durham’s Science Café.

“Having the opportunity to be a speaker at Motorco (via Periodic Tables) was scary, but ultimately, so gratifying,” says Sherwood, Associate Professor of the Practice in Duke Biology. “I loved seeing how many people in the local community are interested in science and how it's done, hearing the questions that they had, learning what misconceptions are out there, and what intrigues (or concerns) people about what we do,” she adds.

A core of experts in journalism, science policy, and the science of science communication will join Jory Weintraub, Science Communication Program Director, to lead the 2016 training. Extensive opportunities to practice real world communication skills and network with experts and other fellows will fill the schedule.

“Even if you never plan to write an op-ed or meet with a politician or set up a twitter account, the skills you will learn from practicing these things are relevant and essential for us as scientists, since we all have to communicate effectively,” Sherwood says. “This was a completely worthwhile, and tremendously fun, investment of time, a great way to meet and hear about the work of other researchers across campus, and has been one of my favorite professional experiences by far.”

Join us this Fall!

September 16 :: October 7 :: October 28

The first two sessions will run from 8:30 AM to 1:30 PM and will include continental breakfast and lunch. The third session will run from 12:00 PM to 5:30 PM, will include lunch and will conclude with a Happy Hour during which participants will have the opportunity to practice the skills they developed over the course of the three workshops.

The application deadline is July 31, 2016. Applicants will be notified no later than August 17, 2016.


B.S. Shepard, Shawn Rocco

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