10 Simple Ways to Improve Your SciComm Skills

By Sheeva Azma

Want to learn about #SciComm but don’t know where to start? Read this post.

Have you heard of science communication or SciComm? SciComm is gaining momentum as a field, but not everyone may know exactly what it is, or how to get involved. If that describes you, keep reading for more information about SciComm, including free and low-cost SciComm resources.

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What is SciComm?

Wikipedia defines science communication or SciComm as “the practice of informing, educating, raising awareness of science-related topics, and increasing the sense of wonder about scientific discoveries and arguments. ” In other words, SciComm is a way to communicate science in a way that a general audience can understand. The Science Basement defines a science communicator as “someone who bridges the gap between the science and the public.”

According to @ScienceBasement, a science communicator or SciCommer “bridges the gap between the science and the public.” #SciComm

The practice of science communication, whether via science writing, volunteer activities, public speaking opportunities, or other ways, is known as SciComm. 

Why SciComm?

There are many reasons to participate in SciComm, especially if you are a scientist or someone with a science background. Remember, though, that all you need to be a SciCommer is an interest in science and in communicating science to others.

Two main reasons to do SciComm are to improve public understanding of science and boost science literacy; and to improve the communication of science in a variety of contexts (both within and outside of the ivory tower). As Eos writes, “Effective communication is not necessarily intuitive; it is a skill that must be learned and practiced.”

Why #SciComm? SciCommers have the opportunity to use their communication skills to boost science literacy.

While SciComm is distinct from science, scientists could benefit from learning SciComm, though anyone interested in science can be a SciCommer. Keep reading for 10 easy ways you can learn more about SciComm and improve your science communication skills.

10 Ways to Get Involved in SciComm

Are you a scientist who is frustrated by the general public’s lack of knowledge of your field? Perhaps you are a writer who does not have a science background but would like to get into science writing. Maybe you do have a science degree (whether undergraduate or graduate) or a lifelong interest in science, but never thought about science writing as a way to pay the bills or to help people understand science.

Whatever the reason, if you want to do SciComm but are not sure where to start, here are 10 ways you can get involved in SciComm today.

1. Read my book about becoming a freelance science writer.

Check out Fancy Comma, LLC’s book in collaboration with The Shared Microscope, “How to Get Started in Freelance Science Writing.” The book contains helpful advice for anyone, especially people with a science background, who are interested in pursuing freelance science writing.

2. Check out the Friends of SciComm group on LinkedIn.

The Friends of SciComm group is a great place to connect with other people interested in not only science communication, but also science policy (or SciPol). You’ll need a LinkedIn account to join the group.

3. Sign up for NPR SciCommers.

National Public Radio hosts NPR SciCommers, a great community led by NPR science correspondent Joe Palca. They have a great Slack channel (available to members of NPR SciCommers) where you can chat with fellow science writers, gain insights into freelance science journalism, and learn about science writing job opportunities. You can also sign up to edit fellow SciCommers’ journalism articles, or work with your fellow SciCommers to pitch an article of your own to mainstream media outlets such as NPR’s blogs, Scientific American, and more.

4. Participate in #SciCommChat.

SciCommChat is a weekly Twitter chat hosted by Nidhi Parekh where you can improve your #SciComm skills. On SciCommChat, you can chat with fellow SciCommers, ask questions about science writing and SciComm, and discuss the multifaceted aspects of communicating science. It’s a great free resource and I’ve learned a lot from it. The best part is that it’s free and there are different topics being discussed every week. Follow @SciCommClub on Twitter to be updated on upcoming SciCommChat events.

5. Read about science journalism at The Open Notebook.

The Open Notebook, founded by scientist turned science journalist Siri Carpenter, is one of my favorite free resources to learn about science writing. It’s a great resource for people interested in communicating science for a general audience. One of my favorite resources is the page about how my favorite science journalists got started in science writing. The site also has an entire section about getting started in science journalism, a database of successful pitches, and lots of interviews and blogs.

6. Listen to SciComm podcasts.

There are a number of SciComm podcasts out there. Mark Bayer has a great podcast called When Science Speaks. There’s also the Radio Lab and Hidden Brain podcasts from NPR. Do you have a favorite SciComm podcast not mentioned here? Feel free to add it below in the comments!

7. See what SciCommers are saying.

One way to gain SciComm skills is to learn about ways that other SciCommers are making science accessible to all. Some of my favorite SciCommers are Raven the Science Maven, Hip Hop MD, SciComm Sam, and The Addictive Brain. If you have other favorite SciCommers, feel free to chime in below.

8. Read the blog over at Science Talk (it’s geared towards science communicators).

The Science Talk blog is dedicated to discussing topics in SciComm such as ways to improve classroom SciComm teaching, tips for writing about science, and providing SciComm advice. If you’re interested in SciComm, definitely check it out!

9. Analyze science journalism stories in the news.

One way to improve your SciComm skills is to read science journalism articles. The Los Angeles Times and New York Times have great science desks, as do the Wall Street Journal, NPR, and The Atlantic. (As an MIT alum, I also love the Tech Review‘s reporting.) Take note of how the science articles are written. Do they simplify the complexities of science for the everyday reader without eliminating crucial details? If you want to read the work of specific science journalists, Ed Yong (winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting) is one of my favorites. Katherine Wu is another great science journalist. By the way, both Yong and Wu have advanced degrees in science, in case you’re a scientist wondering if you can become a science writer. It’s totally possible!

10. Check out our blog and subscribe to the free Fancy Comma newsletter.

Fancy Comma, LLC hopes to help aspiring SciCommers and freelance science writers by providing SciComm tips over at our blog. We’ve blogged our best tips for writing op-eds and blogs as a scientist. We also write about all things freelance writing, including freelance science writing, in our newsletter. (You can also follow us on Twitter @FancyComma or on LinkedIn.)

You may have heard the saying that writing is like exercise: it gets easier the more you do it. The same goes for science communication.

It’s been said that writing is like exercising a muscle: it gets better with practice. The same goes for science communication or #SciComm.

Thanks for stopping by, and good luck in your SciComm endeavors! If you have other SciComm resources you want to recommend, feel free to comment below.

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