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Consider Getting Involved in Science Communication as a Grad Student

Author: Shawna L Thompson

We are fortunate to be involved in a field of biomedical research that is diverse, dynamic, and engaging... to everyone! From elementary school science classes to special patient groups, science advocates, and people who just want to know how to take care of their brains, the demand for skilled science communicators is high. It is important to learn how to effectively communicate your research while in graduate school for a number of reasons. We hope to convince you that it will be well worth your time!


1. It helps develop and practice skills for talking about your research to people outside of academia. Besides making things easier at your family dinner this Thanksgiving, this is dually beneficial because these skills really help when writing research proposals and lay abstracts for scholarship applications.


2. It’s good for your CV. Involvement in diverse science communication activities will show scholarship committees, future employers, and your committee that you are committed to knowledge translation from research all the way to end users of the information. The skills you develop are broadly transferable in all kinds of academic and industry career paths.


3. It can help to build a network in your field. Science communication comes in many forms, and one way to become involved in the “SciComm" community is to make (and use!) a professional Twitter account. If you're looking for tips to get started with your own Twitter account, see our recent BrainWaves article. Joining the global conversation between scientists on Twitter has led to opportunities for me to write for a Brazilian glia blog, guest host my favourite Neuroscience podcast, and to meet up with people I've spoken to in person at conferences.


4. It could lead to future job opportunities. You might find that science communication fits with your goals as a scientist and is part of your ideal career. It is incredibly important to share current neuroscience research accurately with the general public at a level that suits them, and many career paths will involve communicating what you do to diverse people, regardless of the career path you choose.


5. It's fun! Grad school is the perfect time to start working on Science Communication skills, and there are many exciting opportunities to do so as part of the McMaster Graduate Student community. Within our program, volunteering with Out of Our Minds is a fun way to demonstrate how the brain works using hands-on workshops at local high schools, while writing for BrainWaves lets you practice creating short, engaging, and informative articles on relevant neuroscience topics. Outside of our program, I also plan to practice presenting my research in an accessible way at the GSA's October "Taps and Tales" session, and in September I am attending this year's ComSciCon-GTA conference to learn more about the field broadly.


No matter how you choose to approach Science Communication in your grad school career, chances are that your efforts will serve the general public as well as yourself in the future. Don’t forget to share opportunities to participate in SciComm with your peers too, outreach is always the best when you can do it with your friends and colleagues!





PS. A good start for some science Twitter accounts to follow might include these, but there are way too many good ones to choose from!

 





General Science

@OpenAcademics, @legogradstudent, @extrasolarchar, @AcademicFemale, @Potato_Chip, @NobelPrize, @DrJenGunter, @Claire_Lee, @AcademicChatter, @LGBTSTEM

 

Neuroscientists

@BabyAttachMode, @TheNewPI, @mnitabach, @DrKatJohnson, @hisotalus, @cllantz, @canna_brain, @analog_ashley, @fMRI_guy, @jennbrasch, @choekatr, @jfosterlab

 

McMaster

@McMasterU, @mcmastersgs, @MacGSA

 

MiNDS tweeps

@neurosciencemac, @somaminds, @reynolds_k_, @CMcIntyreWood, @kcjorgenson, @sharkweekshane, @FizaaArshad, @MostlyMicroglia (me!)

 

SciComm

@ComSciConGTA, @SkypeScientist, @ReadMoreScience, @Ehmee