With so many complex current issues such as climate change, vaccination and gene editing that have not only scientific and technical dimensions, but also ethical and social implications, it has never been more important to communicate about science effectively.
This Spring, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication’s popular course LSC 560: Scientific Writing will teach graduate students in scientific fields to do just that. In the course, LSC senior lecturer and award-winning journalist Ron Seely will share over 20 years of expertise as a science and environmental reporter working for the Wisconsin State Journal and as a freelancer to help students bring clarity and simplicity to complex scientific subjects.
“LSC 560 gives graduate students a professional understanding of how to effectively communicate science and research findings to the public. It helps any scientist or science writer who needs to understand how and why their messages must change along with the audience they address, whether it’s scientific, lay or governmental,” says LSC professor and director of undergraduate studies Shiela Reaves.
In Spring 2017, Laura Strugnell (B.S. ’17) tapped the mail icon on her phone and found an email sent to the Life Sciences Communication (LSC) undergraduate student listserv. Strugnell was searching for a job, and the email advertised a communications position in Texcoco, Mexico at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (know as CIMMYT for its Spanish name Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maíz y Trigo).
A Madison native, Strugnell hadn’t planned to get a job outside the U.S. However, she had taken a variety of agriculture classes and worked in a horticulture lab while at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, so she knew about CIMMYT’s global reputation. The more she thought about it, the more convinced she became that working at CIMMYT could be a prime opportunity to put her LSC education to work.
The following story was written by Brian Mattmiller of the Morgridge Institute for Research. It has been adapted and republished here.
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication participated in an international workshop this month on the intersection of genome editing technology and national security.
The Oct. 11-13 conference, based in Hanover, Germany, assembled a global group of bioethics and government experts to address security questions on gene editing as they relate to human health, agriculture and the potential to genetically alter species. Experts from the United States and across Europe, China and India explored ideas for harmonizing gene editing policies across national borders.
Story by Ysabella Bhagroo. Ysabella is an undergraduate student majoring in LSC and the Department of Life Sciences Communication 2017-18 Lenore Landry Scholar.
It’s the stuff of science fiction – artificially whitening clouds, injecting reflective particles into the stratosphere, seeding the oceans with iron – all to reverse the escalating consequences of climate change.
With changing global weather patterns, including five hurricanes within the past month, Dominique Brossard, chair of the Life Sciences Communication Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, believes the time to discuss solutions is now.
According to a recent Stanford study, if we want to reduce global temperature by 2 degrees Celsius, we need to significantly reduce our reliance on fossil fuels within the next 2 or 3 decades. To do this, experts are turning to climate engineering, or “geoengineering,” for answers.
Over the summer, LSC students had fun applying their science communication education as interns in professional settings across the country. Here we highlight a few examples of LSC’s many summer interns.
Senior Riley Steinbrenner traveled to Boulder Junction, Wisconsin this summer to intern at the University of Wisconsin Center for Limnology’s Trout Lake Station. She worked on the center’s social media strategy, helped organize station events, and created content for a section of the Center for Limnology’s blog, Off the Reel.
“One of my inspirations for Off the Reel was from what I learned about photography and communicating science with narrative in my LSC courses: Storytelling paired with visuals can increase narrative transport, which helps readers understand and enjoy learning about complex scientific research! I also got a chance to use the graphic-design principles I learned from LSC,” says Steinbrenner.
As the fall semester begins, we are excited to welcome to Hiram Smith Hall new and returning students from across the state and across the world.
In the next fifteen weeks, LSC students will explore the theory and practice of subjects at the forefront of science communication. Some students will create multimedia projects and design original websites. Other students will produce professional-grade audio projects and work on manuscripts that may be published in academic journals.
This semester, it is also LSC’s pleasure to welcome a new lecturer to our faculty. Jenne Meyer is the Vice President of Brand for the healthcare company ERDMAN and serves on the Board of Directors of the companies BizStarts, BrightLife Innovations, and Jouze. This semester, she will bring her business experience to the classroom to teach LSC270: Communication in Life Sciences Industries and LSC 435: Integrated Marketing Communication.
LSC researchers find attitudes toward human genome editing vary, but all agree conversation is necessary
The following story was written by Caroline Schneider of CALS External Relations. It has been adapted and republished here.
In early August 2017, an international team of scientists announced they had successfully edited the DNA of human embryos. As people process the political, moral, and regulatory issues of the technology — which nudges us closer to nonfiction than science fiction — a new study from LSC researchers shows the time is now to involve the American public in discussions about human genome editing.
In the study published Aug. 11 in the journal Science, researchers assessed what people in the United States think about the uses of human genome editing and how their attitudes may drive public discussion. They found a public divided on its uses but united in the importance of moving conversations forward.
“There are several pathways we can go down with gene editing,” says LSC professor Dietram Scheufele, lead author of the study and member of a National Academy of Sciences committee that compiled a report focused on human gene editing earlier this year. “Our study takes an exhaustive look at all of those possible pathways forward and asks where the public stands on each one of them.”
LSC grads go on to have careers in numerous fields, whether it’s digital marketing, technical writing, broadcast production, or science outreach. More still go on to create their own ventures through entrepreneurship. These individuals imagine new opportunities not yet in the marketplace and take action to create successful enterprises. The businesses they create span a range of industries from agriculture to health and fitness and technology development.
One LSC entrepreneur is 2008 grad, Andy Peterson. Andy started working on a plan for his business, Limousin Live, in his LSC capstone, allowing him to jump into the company directly after graduation. Today, Andy owns two companies. Limousin Live which helps ranchers market their herd’s genetics through quality content and information, and Peterson Craftsman Meats where he raises and harvests high-quality meats.
“LSC impacted both of my businesses by helping guide me to the industries that were the best fit for my interests,” says Peterson. While in school, Andy learned to produce podcasts through an information radio class with LSC’s Larry Meiller, and mastered content marketing and website design from LSC’s Don Stanley and Sarah Botham. Right off the bat, he was able to provide high-quality websites and content to his ranch clients and bring social marketing strategies to the cattle arena.
“To me, LSC totally encapsulates the Wisconsin Idea because it allowed me the space to be creative. The classes in LSC provided me the tools and resources to be successful and the creative room to explore different business solutions,” notes Andy.
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Story by Sarah Krier. Sarah is an undergraduate student majoring in LSC and the Department of Life Sciences Communication 2016-17 Lenore Landry Scholar.
LSC faculty are leaders in the science communication field, and in addition to their teaching, research, and outreach roles within the university, many also pursue science communication work at the local, regional, and national scale. LSC senior lecturer Ron Seely recently lent his expertise to a worthwhile regional effort – protecting the Great Lakes.
In September 2016 the Mary Griggs Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation at Northland College invited Seely to attend a two-day summit about the future of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) and write a white paper about the issue. The initiative aims to clean and protect the Great Lakes’ water resources with federal funding.
Seely used the conference discussions among biologists, limnologists, ecologists, and other scientific professionals to produce a digestible and convincing document about the challenges facing the lake. That said, his work started well before the conference. Ron spent months preparing for the summit by researching the biological processes of freshwater resources and the effects of pollution, biodiversity, and water quality on the Great Lake’s ecosystem.
Ron agrees these efforts paid off. “It’s a great comfort when you sit down to write something like this to have a huge stack of information to pull from. I had a better handle on the discussion as it happened. In the end, I went to the summit pretty well prepared and I think that’s a good lesson for a writer. You can’t really spend too much time understanding your topic.”
According to the summit and Seely’s white paper, the benefits provided by the GLRI are clear. The program, which started in 2010, has made tremendous positive strides to improve the health of the Great Lakes. “All the experts who had been involved pointed out that it is this tremendously successful bipartisan program,” noted Seely.
Since its publication last fall the white paper has passed through the hands of important decision makers and continues to make the rounds among congressional delegates involved in determining the future of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
LSC is excited to announce that LSC professor emeritus and senior lecturer Larry Meiller was inducted into the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame on Thursday, June 15, 2017. Larry’s on-air career has spanned 50 years and he continues to host “The Larry Meiller Show” every weekday in addition to serving as a faculty member at LSC and inspiring students to pursue radio in LSC’s Information Radio course.
Larry Meiller’s radio career started while an undergraduate student in the Department of Agricultural Journalism (now called Life Sciences Communication). Meiller enrolled in a radio class his senior year and shortly after he was asked to fill in on “The Farm Program,” a department run agricultural radio segment on WHA AM radio, for a summer by late LSC professor Maury White. Not long after, Meiller took over running “The Farm Program” while pursuing his Ph.D. in Mass Communications at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Larry has hosted a number of programs including “The Farm Program,” “The Midday Report,” “Wisconsin Hear and Now,” and “Conversations with Larry Meiller,” and he has interviewed local and national celebrities including Jesse Jackson, Pat Summerall, John Grisham and others.
“Larry Meiller is truly a Wisconsin institution,” notes LSC chair Dominique Brossard. “Larry really epitomizes the Wisconsin Idea because not only does he love teaching students how to communicate effectively, but he also draws on that knowledge and the knowledge of the university as a whole to discuss a range of topics on his radio show. And he has done this for 50 years! We are truly lucky to have him.”