Working with scientists to communicate broadly

December 3, 2009 in BI Blog by Janice McDonnell

I am Janice McDonnell and I will be Jim’s co-blogger for COSEE NOW.  I have been fortunate enough in the last 15 years to work with ocean scientists here at Rutgers and other institutions interested in communicating their science broadly, not to mention getting high marks in panel reviews for their proposal to meet criterion II!   My goal is to generate a useful discussion on writing better Broader Impact Statements and to explore what kinds of projects do scientists find interesting and rewarding.

I have had the great pleasure of working with our podcast host extraordinaire Ari Daniel Shapiro.  In doing so, I get a chance to chat with the scientists he interviews for the broadcasts.  Not too long ago I asked Professor Gwyn Griffiths star of podcast episode #13 Autonomous, enormous, ingenious to tell me what makes his visits to schools successful?

He summed it up with no false modesty (a British trait as he says):

1). Perhaps because I am a father and grandfather, I connect with young audiences.  I project enthusiasm and a sense of fun.

2) . I use props – for example to get across just how poor batteries are as energy sources for underwater vehicles, have an example, labeled with how many kilojoules of energy it contains, and have a soda can (non diet!) for a comparison. In the UK the energy is on the can in kJ.

3).   I provide opportunities for kids to tinker and do hands-on activities that allow them to explore the science.

Prof. Griffiths also shares some great resources.  Dr. David Price’s  Science Made Simple project and a related project Engineering Explained provide presenter training, consulting, and other ideas to help you translate your science to public audiences.

As educators, we are always looking for new and innovative ways of partnering with scientists to create programs and resources that make a difference and contribute to science literacy.  What are your tips for success?  What resources do you find most useful?  I thank Prof. Griffiths  for sharing his ideas and ask you to post your ideas today.  It will “take a village” to turn the tide of the seeming decline of public science literacy.  Tell us what you think.