New LSC course examines the role of narrative in science communication

The use of narrative in science has become a particularly active area of research in recent years. Narrative can be a powerful tool for any form of communication and science is no exception.  But it is not as easy as it may seem.  When using storytelling in science, there are many questions to address. What does research tell us about what is effective when using narrative in science? What should the plot line be? What platform is best? What is the length and format? These are just a few of the questions communicators must address when composing a narrative about science.

This semester, LSC debuted a new course focusing on this emerging area in science communication – LSC 430: Communicating Science with Narrative. The course, taught by Professor Shiela Reaves, explores how storytelling can be used to communicate complex scientific topics to non-expert audiences. Students examine the impact of metaphor in science writing, the scientific paradigm shifts surrounding narrative theory, and how news-editorial thinking can be used in the sciences.

“Although storytelling is ancient to the human species, it is relatively new in the life sciences, and many scientists are not aware of the persuasive impact of non-fiction storytelling found in the news media. By understanding the power of storytelling to change minds, our students can stand out in the field,” notes Reaves.
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Alumni profile: Jill Peters leverages her LSC education to land her dream job

Jill Peters, BS ’14, has always been drawn to nature. Peters grew up in a national park in northern Wisconsin, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, where she dreamed of working in the field.  So, when she came to UW-Madison she decided to major in Biology and she got to work studying with the hope of one day doing conservation work in the great outdoors.

However, it wasn’t long until she realized Biology wasn’t quite the right fit. “Biology just felt a bit too broad for what I wanted to do,” notes Peters. Luckily, one of her friends recommended the Department of Life Sciences Communication, and according to Jill it was the perfect fit.  “I always knew I wanted to work in conservation in some capacity, but I also wanted to have a creative outlet. I always wanted to do communications because I love writing and photography – they just come naturally to me.”  So, in her third year at UW, Jill decided to major in LSC and get her certificate in Environmental Studies.

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LSC’s Dietram Scheufele contributes to NASEM human gene editing report

Life Sciences Communication professor Dietram Scheufele served on the international committee examining the implications of human gene editing, and their report titled “Human Genome Editing: Science, Ethics, and Governance” was released today, February 14, 2017.

Human gene editing is not a new concept, however, with the emergence of CRISPR-Cas9, scientists are able to alter genes more efficiently and precisely than before.  In 2015, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine convened a consensus committee to better understand the clinical, ethical, legal, and social implications of this technology.

A subset of the human gene editing committee met with Rep. Bill foster (IL-11th District) on Monday February 13th to brief him on the report.

The international committee featured experts in science, law, political science, and industry from around the globe, including Scheufele and UW-Madison law and bioethics professor R. Alto Charo who co-chaired the panel.

Many of the questions posed to the panel were inevitably linked to science communication and Scheufele, who publishes extensively on public opinion of emerging technologies, was able to provide expertise to this multidisciplinary group.

According to the NASEM, “[the report] considers important questions about the human application of genome editing including: balancing potential benefits with unintended risks, governing the use of genome editing, incorporating societal values into clinical applications and policy decisions, and respecting the inevitable differences across nations and cultures that will shape how and whether to use these new technologies.”  Among the report’s contributions, it recommends criteria for germline editing, outlines the critical need for public engagement, and proposes seven general principles for the governance of human gene editing across the globe.

For more information on the report, see the following story by University Communications. Keep up with the discussion on Twitter at #GeneEditStudy.  The full report is available for download via the NASEM website.

Story adapted from University Communications.

LSC professor Dietram Scheufele awarded National Science Foundation grant to help develop innovative approaches for science learning

LSC professor Dietram Scheufele is part of a team of researchers and museums awarded a National Science Foundation grant to develop and test innovative approaches to communicating chemistry in informal science learning environments. The grant, which has a total award of $2,634,708, is titled “ChemAttitudes: Using Design-Based Research to Develop and Disseminate Strategies and Materials to Support Chemistry Interest, Relevance, and Self-Efficacy.”  Scheufele will serve as the principle investigator for the Wisconsin component of the grant and Scheufele’s advisee Emily Howell, a doctoral student in the Nelson Institute and member of LSC’s SCIMEP research group, will serve as project assistant.

nsf-logoThe grant is led by the Museum of Science in Boston and is a unique collaboration between science museums and research leaders in the field of science communication. Chemistry is present almost everywhere in our lives, and many people are also fearful of “chemicals” in their food or the environment.  So far, however, chemistry is a field that is underrepresented in science museums and other science outreach activities.
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LSC’s science communication colloquium featured an exciting lineup

This semester’s LSC science communication colloquium brought acclaimed speakers from near and far. Every week of the semester attendees of the colloquium heard from experts in bioethics, science communication, scientific art, science and technology studies, science policy, and new information technologies, among other interesting areas.

Check out the list of speakers below. You can click each speakers’ name for more information about them. After each speaker, a link by their names will take you to a video and audio stream of their talk.  Continue reading

Life Sciences Communication graduates have promising job prospects

With the start of the semester, many students are now on the job market for the first time or they are starting the last semester of their undergraduate careers. Searching for a job can sometimes seem like a daunting task, but students can take solace in the promising job outlook for agriculture related fields.

IMG_2781 (1)“LSC majors know how prepared they are for their career choices in communicating science – they understand research methods so they can stay current and most importantly they understand audiences and what attracts them across digital platforms. This confidence results in better job interviews, and ultimately in great jobs” notes LSC professor and director of undergraduate studies, Shiela Reaves.

The recently released 2015/2016 Entry-level Job Report for Recent Graduates in Agriculture and Related Disciplines provides insight into the number of graduates and starting salaries for those graduating from colleges in agriculture and life sciences.  The report shows that although overall entry-level salaries have stayed relatively constant, the number of entry-level positions is on the rise.
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From public outreach to peer review, UW–Madison scientists find value in social media

By Kelly April Tyrrell, UW-Madison University Communications

Social media has erased many of the boundaries between leaders and the people they represent, between experts and the lay public, between scientists and nonscientists. It has enabled people to communicate directly and interact in unprecedented ways.

At the University of Wisconsin–Madison, a survey of 372 scientists engaged in biological or physical science research shows that scientists are increasingly using social media to communicate with nonscientific audiences.

Nearly 75 percent of the scientists surveyed at UW–Madison between April and June 2016 believe that nonscientists add valuable perspective to discussions about scientific research, which came as a surprise to Dominique Brossard, professor and a leader of the group that administered the survey, the Science, Media and the Public research group (SCIMEP) in the UW–Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication. A report from the survey is published on the SCIMEP website.

“Scientists think lay audiences have something important to say,” says Brossard. “It really reflects the reality of complex science today, where often there are ethical dimensions to consider.”

Dominique Brossard

Dominique Brossard

At the same time, the SCIMEP team found scientists at UW–Madison are also using social media more often to communicate with their peers.

“The norms are changing,” says Brossard. “UW–Madison is representing this quite well.”

Indeed, a non-UW–Madison study published in October in the journal PLOS One shows that scientists from a variety of disciplines around the world report that while they have not widely adopted social media, they believe there are numerous advantages to using it in their work.
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LSC professor Dietram Scheufele helps outline the future of science communication research in NASEM report

The Department of Life Sciences Communication has long been a strong contributor to the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. That relationship continued when LSC professor Dietram Scheufele was asked by the National Research Council to serve as the vice chair for NASEM’s ‘Science of Science Communication’ committee.  The committee’s report titled, “Communicating Science Effectively: A Research Agenda” was released today.

communicating-science-effectivelyThe panel brought together a diverse group of scientists and science communicators with the goal of creating a report to help guide research on how to communicate about controversial science effectively.

The report includes an analysis of what is currently known about effective modes of communication, an overview of the major challenges for science communication, and outlines areas for future research to promote more effective communication.
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LSC undergrads apply their communication skills at summer internships near and far

Many LSC undergraduate students engage in a wide variety of internships each summer and this year was no exception. Students throughout the department honed their science communication skills in professional settings, interning across the country – from Wisconsin to California and in between. In this story we highlight a small selection of students who demonstrated their knowledge and excellence in diverse fields.

Jordan Gaal in Washington DC with AHEC staff

Jordan Gaal in Washington DC with AHEC staff

One of the fields a degree in LSC prepares students for is health communications. For instance, junior Jordan Gaal was a Statewide Communications Assistant with Wisconsin Area Health Education Centers this summer. Through his internship, Jordan traveled to Washington DC to speak about the importance of health education with our national legislators.

“Classes such as Communication Industry Research Methods with Neil Stenhouse taught me how to effectively communicate science research through reports and presentations. Science, Media and Society taught by Dietram Scheufele helped me understand the strong role media plays in science communication, which led me to recognize the connection between media and healthcare in Wisconsin,” noted Jordan.  Check out Jordan’s full internship story in this feature by Scenic Rivers AHEC. Continue reading

LSC highly involved at the 2016 North American Congress for Conservation Biology

The Department of Life Sciences Communication was happy to contribute to the 2016 North American Congress for Conversation Biology.  The 3rd biennial congress’s theme was “Communicating Science for Conservation Action” and highlighted the importance of successful communication strategies in conversation science.  More and more scientific organizations are realizing the importance of communication in turning research into action and LSC is continuing its strong involvement in conversations across disciplines.

Jamie HoNACCBgberg, the organizing committee chair for the conference, noted “We are excited to collaborate with Life Sciences Communication faculty, staff, and students, and greatly value their contributions to the conference. Integrating perspectives from the LSC Department will surely enrich our dialogue during the conference, and provide meaningful impacts to conservation scientists’ work in the future.”
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