Frequently Asked Questions about Science Communication (SciComm)

By the Fancy Comma, LLC Team

Find the answers to your #SciComm questions in this post. What other questions do you have about #ScienceCommunication? Let us know!

Fancy Comma, LLC is a scientific writing, communications, and digital strategy company. We simplify the complexities of science, health, policy, business, and finance for a general audience. Central to our work is science communication or SciComm. As its name implies, SciComm refers to the communication of scientific information to inform, persuade, raise awareness, and/or educate. On our blog, we’ve discussed SciComm from many angles. If you’re looking to learn more about SciComm, or to improve your SciComm skills, keep reading.

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about SciComm. Read them all below or skip to a specific question:

1. What is SciComm? Why do I need to know about it?
2. What are some different types of SciComm?
3. How can I get involved in SciComm?
4. Why should scientists practice SciComm?
5. I’m a scientist. What are some ways I can practice SciComm?
6. I’m a scientist interested in talking to lawmakers about the importance of science. How can I get more involved?
7. I’ve never learned SciComm in any of my science classes. Why isn’t anyone teaching SciComm in science education?
8. Can SciComm be used to solve the problems of the COVID-19 pandemic?
9. What are ways SciComm can be applied to improve science journalism?
10. What books do you recommend to learn more about SciComm?
11. I have more questions about SciComm. Where can I learn more?
12. I have some thoughts on the state of SciComm. Are you accepting blog contributions?

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1. What is SciComm? Why do I need to know about it?

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Science communication is central to effective science. That’s because science involves a flow of ideas from the laboratory to the general public, and back. Science literacy, which equips people with critical thinking and analysis skills, results from effective science communication. As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, the general public could benefit from science literacy to inform health decision-making.

Science communication is a skill related to, but distinct from, one’s scientific abilities. While scientists do not agree on whether they should also be tasked with communicating their findings to the general public or not, all scientists could benefit from being able to explain their work simply. That’s where SciComm comes in.

2. What are some different types of SciComm?

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Two types of SciComm are “inward-facing” and “outward-facing.” Most people know about outward-facing SciComm, famously achieved by science communicators such as Bill Nye the Science Guy and Neil Degrasse Tyson. Outward-facing SciComm seeks to educate people on aspects of science underappreciated by the general public. There’s also another type of SciComm, called inward-facing SciComm, that scientists use to communicate to each other about their work. Learn more about the different types of SciComm in this post.

What’s more, SciComm is not restricted to words. SciComm can also take the form of art, video presentations, podcasts, and more.

3. How can I get involved in SciComm?

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Here are 10 simple free or low-cost ways to get involved in SciComm.

4. Why should scientists practice SciComm?

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The main reason scientists should participate in SciComm is to help promote science literacy. Knowing how to communicate science effectively is a primary requirement of being a successful scientist, but it is one that is often overlooked. Scientists’ voices are crucial to expanding the public discourse on science. Read more about why scientists are crucial to SciComm here.

Another reason scientists should consider getting involved in SciComm is to dispel misinformation.

5. I’m a scientist. What are some ways I can practice SciComm?

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We’ve blogged about ways scientists can become more active in SciComm. Here are a few resources:

6. I’m a scientist interested in talking to lawmakers about the importance of science. How can I get more involved?

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SciComm skills are foundational to science literacy, not only for the general public, but also for policymakers. If you are a scientist interested in advocating for science on Capitol Hill, check out this article.

7. I’ve never learned SciComm in any of my science classes. Why isn’t anyone teaching SciComm in science education?

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Good question! We’ve blogged about teaching SciComm in K-12, undergraduate, and graduate settings. Read our articles here:

8. Can SciComm be used to solve the problems of the COVID-19 pandemic?

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Yes. SciComm is central to the global COVID-19 response. It’s especially useful to help the general public understand the importance of vaccines and treatments. Read more here:

9. What are ways SciComm can be applied to improve science journalism?

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As a scientist, it can be frustrating reading COVID-19 news headlines that lack critical analysis that are pushed out to meet the demands of the 24/7 news cycle. Here are a few articles we’ve written on the topic:

10. What books do you recommend to learn more about SciComm?

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I recommend Illingworth and Allen’s Effective Science Communication, 2nd edition. You can read our review of it here. If you’re interested in a career change from science to science writing and/or SciComm, you can read our book on the topic.

11. I have more questions about SciComm. Where can I learn more?

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Check out our blog or contact us.

12. I have some thoughts on the state of SciComm. Are you accepting blog contributions?

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Yes, we are: learn more here.

Read all of our articles about SciComm here.

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