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 addition to learning how to interpret and translate complex science, students in LSC 560 discuss how to use language, story and interpretive techniques to enhance their writing.
“You learn to shift your perspective and challenge your comfort zone when it comes to science writing and storytelling,” says Regan Dohm, a Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies alumna and former LSC 560 student and teaching assistant.
Over the summer, 34 students, 32 of whom were graduate students, took the course online. The in-person course offered each spring features guest speakers including editors, scientists and science writers.
Times are ripe for scientists to master the science of science communication with courses such as this one. The National Academy of Sciences three-part Arthur M. Sackler Colloquia on the Science of Science Communication series, which held its third colloquium on November 15 and 16 and was co-organized by LSC professor Dietram Scheufele, highlighted the importance of science communication in today’s changing world. The colloquia brought together scientists and communication experts from around the world to foster evidence-based strategies that advance the field of science communication.
“The stakes for society are high,” says LSC chair Dominique Brossard. “Scientists and science writers all have a role to play in fostering collaborative discourse about complex issues and ultimately helping solve the wicked problems of the world. That’s why we offer LSC 560, and all the other science communication courses in LSC.”
For a list of LSC courses open to non-degree seeking graduate students in the sciences, see the graduate tab of the LSC website.