By Aimen Arshad
Get creative with your science communication! Here are 10 different forms #SciComm can take.Tweet
People have different ideas about what science communication or SciComm entails. Part of the confusion stems from the fact that SciComm can take many different formats. You can choose the format that you like best – one that speaks to your strengths and interests. Keep reading to learn about 10 different forms of SciComm you can use.
Please note: this is not an exhaustive compendium of everyone doing different forms of SciComm out there. Rather, it’s a relatively quick primer on different forms of SciComm to help you get started on your own unique journey! No two SciCommers are the same, nor should they be!
What is science communication (SciComm), anyway?
Why pursue SciComm?
10 forms of SciComm
3. Drawing and designing
4. Public engagement
5. Short videos
8. Stand-up comedy
9. Teaching Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)
10. Science games
What is Science Communication (SciComm), anyway?
Many people are interested in SciComm but don’t know exactly what it is. Science communication is the practice of informing, educating, and raising awareness about science, whether among the general public, other scientists, or important stakeholders (such as lawmakers or executives). SciComm makes science accessible to everyone, which boosts science literacy, helping people live better lives through science. SciComm also improves science by helping scientists ask questions more reflective of the world’s everyday realities. For answers to frequently asked questions about SciComm, check out this post.
Why pursue SciComm?
One great part of getting involved in SciComm, regardless of the exact format, is that it can help you develop skills you can use in your career – whether you go into academic science or pursue a different career path. I’ve blogged about that previously. If you’re interested in pursuing SciComm as your career, you’ll need to put together a portfolio. It’s easier than you might think.
Keep reading for my list of 10 forms that your science communication can take.
10 Forms of Science Communication
There are many ways to communicate science. You can give a presentation, draw, write poems, blog, and more. Got a passion for science and the right kind of skills? You’re already halfway there! Science communication is a vast field and there are many different ways to get involved!
If you like to write, becoming a science writer is a good option. You don’t have to write academic research papers. Instead, you can start a blog to share your science interests and curiosities with audiences worldwide. One of the benefits of blogging is that you can write about what you know about. As a student of science, you are a subject matter expert, and people can learn a lot from your insights. Keep in mind, though, that you can also blog about subjects you like but in which you’re not an expert. What’s more, if you are interested in pursuing SciComm as a side gig or even a career, your writings can form the backbone of your SciComm portfolio.
A simple way to get into science writing is to choose a particular science niche and talk about everything related to that. Over time, as your writing gains readership, you can build authority and deepen your knowledge in the subject. For example, if you want to educate people on health technology, create a health-related blog with tips and advice to improve health. You can write about the latest breakthroughs and opinions on scientific discovery, or educate your audience about the intricacies of health policy and why it matters.
Another advantage of creating a blog website is that it allows you to customize themes, add supporting images, and make your blog beautiful. Successfully maintaining your blog can help you gain readership and even potential clients, who get a positive impression of you as an organized, competent writer with clarity of thought and ideas.
Check out these websites to help you in your SciComm blogging endeavors:
- The Association for Science Communicators provides tips, suggestions, and training for science communicators. Whether you’re an aspiring or established SciCommer, you’ll likely find useful insights at the Science Talk blog.
- Visit the PLOS SciComm Blog for science communications insights from a major scientific publisher, Public Library of Science (PLoS).
- Plainspoken Scientist, run by the American Geophysical Union, encourages scientists to communicate science in plain language. Gain advice on how to communicate science more simply at their blog. You can sign up on their website to be notified of new blogs via e-mail.
- Check out the Fancy Comma blog for our insights on science writing! You can subscribe to our blog here.
Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, if you love to talk about science, you can turn that into SciComm. Extroverts love to be around people, so they might love giving a public lecture or doing a demo explaining science to a general audience. If you’re an introvert, and feel drained by the thought of being around people, consider podcasting as a great way to share your science expertise with others in a one-on-one setting.
Whatever way you derive your creative energies, podcasting is a great way to gain communication experience that can translate to other SciComm opportunities. You can start your own podcast or be a guest on someone else’s. Talk about anything you love (obviously, science-related for SciComm). You can do solo segments, invite scientists to chat with you, or co-host with a fellow SciCommer to share your collective opinions, agreements, and disagreements on science and making science accessible.
The excellent news is launching a podcast does not necessarily require expensive tools. You can start with a mobile phone and a pair of headphones. The website Anchor.fm allows you to record podcasts, as well as distribute them to listeners on different sites including Spotify and Apple iTunes.
Remember to share your podcast episode links on your social media channels, such as Twitter and Instagram.
I’ve included some examples of engaging podcasts below. Plug into any of these podcasts to learn how to get started:
- If you ask me, Let’s Talk SciComm is one of the best science communication podcasts out there. Hosted by two professors from the University of Melbourne in Australia, Let’s Talk SciComm covers the importance of SciComm and ways it can gain recognition in science. It also provides scientists with the insights needed for them to discuss their research effectively.
- When Kevin, the host of the podcast Metaphorigins, was unsure what to do with his life after getting his MSc in Biochemistry, he started this podcast to talk about science metaphors. Learn more about how to use metaphors for your science with Kevin!
While you are listening to these or other podcasts, ask yourself questions such as: What intrigues me about these podcasts? How do these podcast hosts keep their listeners hooked? What would I improve in these podcasts? Use the answers to these questions to help you come up with ideas for your science podcast.
3. Drawing and designing
I have met a lot of scientists with great aesthetic sense during my six years as a scientist. Many friends and colleagues have told me they love both art and science, and I have one suggestion for them: get into science art, also called SciArt! One can develop their SciArt projects into a profitable side hustle, use it to communicate science more effectively in your work, or just use creating art as a way to decompress from lab life.
On social media channels, science artists share their art using the hashtag #SciArt – check out #SciArt on Twitter and Instagram to see what I mean. As a science artist, you have the opportunity to represent the science data concisely but engagingly. If you like drawing and design, science art is a great SciComm medium for you.
Just like with art in general, there are no shortage of ways to pursue SciArt. If you are more digitally inclined, a fun part of SciArt could be choosing the right colors, text (including font and placement), and style for your drawings, illustrations, and/or infographics. Once you grasp the basics, you can move upward by designing journal covers, research paper images, graphical posters, and more. If you are more into creating artwork like paintings, decoupage, and the like, you can apply your artistic skills to develop science-inspired art.
If you’re entrepreneurial about SciArt, you can monetize your endeavors. I’ve seen science artists selling their science drawings, tee shirt and jewelry designs, and more on Etsy.
Here are a few science artists I recommend checking out:
- Hailee Perrett is a science artist and scientist, “studying viruses by day and making art by night,” as she writes in her Etsy shop.
- Julia Ferguson paints, draws, and designs all different kinds of natural subjects. She also works with researchers to draw scientific diagrams, logos, and illustrations.
- If you’re both wordy and artistic, read our article by Briley Lewis about making a SciComm ‘zine. Lewis sells her SciComm ‘zines on Etsy.
4. Public engagement
Another science communication format that can be very impactful is public engagement; it’s also sometimes called science outreach. If you like talking to people to help them learn about science, science outreach is for you.
Public engagement involves organizing events such as exhibitions, fairs, competitions, and other events to get people interested in science through storytelling, anecdotes, humor, and plain language. For example, you may opt to do hands-on demos to demonstrate concepts in science and help attendees develop a greater appreciation of science. Such efforts encourage empathy and trust in science and help improve science literacy on a personal level, which can be very impactful. Hip Hop MD communicates science via his Instagram as well as through public engagement events with young people, with the goal of boosting science literacy among historically underserved students.
Maybe it should go without saying that getting started in SciComm, you won’t start out at the level and reach of Hip Hop MD, who as of writing this, has over 16,000 Instagram followers!
Here are a couple of public engagement SciComm programs to give you a better idea of this work:
- We’ve all heard of science fairs, but have you ever heard of an event where students judge the research of early career scholars, rather than the other way around? That’s what happens at the Flipped Science Fair. School-age students judge the research work of PhDs to facilitate science interactions in an informal setting and to train scientists to express their work in layperson terms.
- Another example of a science outreach program is the Be A Scientist program. Started by a professor at UC Berkeley, Be A Scientist was founded to make science accessible to young students. As part of the program, students choose develop and test a hypothesis about a subject of their choice. This helps them apply the scientific method in a hands-on way to boost their science knowledge and critical thinking skills.
There are likely programs like this that exist where you live, even if you don’t know about them. If you’re a grad student, ask around in your department to see if anyone does any outreach with local elementary, middle, and high schools, or if your department has a public lecture series open to the general public. Science museums also conduct this type of public engagement, so check with them to see if you can lend your expertise for an event or two. Keep in mind that if there are no public engagement science events near you, you can always start one!
Do you find meaning in capturing life’s small moments? If so, videography may be up your alley. According to a 2022 Hubspot report, the average person on social media spends 19 hours a week, which is most of their time, consuming video content.
You don’t have to have any professional video recording equipment; your cell phone will suffice. Sites like Instagram make it easy to create and share video content called Reels from your smartphone. You can record cells’ behavior, chemical reactions, life under the sea, or even the mechanical behavior of a science device. You can create short videos about life in the lab, or as a science freelancer, or just the things you do every day. You can also create longer videos, SciComm tutorials, host webinars, and more. Beyond Instagram, Loom and YouTube, including YouTube Live, can be helpful websites to get started in the video space.
Here are video content creators I recommend checking out for inspiration:
- Karen McKee, also known as The Scientist Videographer, uses videos to tell science stories. She also hosts workshops and webinars for fellow SciCommers about ways to amplify SciComm with videography.
- SciShow demonstrates an interesting example of what you can do with your video skills as a scientist. Hank Green and his team promote science by sharing mind-boggling science facts in general terms that make even minute details interesting.
- Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell explains the most difficult science concepts in the most straightforward ways. Using a mix of animations, and videography skills, Kurzgesagt keeps the audience hooked throughout the video while explaining human biology, the laws of physics, and everything in between.
Can you evoke emotions, paint vivid images, and convey ideas through wordplay, verbal imagery, and rhymes? Then science poetry might be for you. Poetry can help scientists provide a unique perspective on scientists’ motivations, challenges, and rewards, which gives a human face to science research.
Don’t shy away from poetry as a creative medium to boost science literacy. Sharing science experiences and knowledge through poetry can build empathy and connection with the broader public. Using the unique elements of poetry, such as figurative language, imagery, and rhythmic patterns, you can make science more accessible to a broader audience to increase public interest in science.
Check out these scientist poets:
- Dr. Sam Illingworth, co-author of the SciComm textbook Effective Science Communication, uses poetry to create a dialogue between scientists and non-scientists. He believes poetry is not the only means of connecting science to the public but a medium to develop science with them. He also runs poetry workshops to foster a deeper appreciation for the impact of science. Find him on Twitter at @samillingworth.
- Rachel Rayner explores poetry as a method of scientific communication. She believes that poetry can bring research to life. Read her famous poem about the science of light.
The film sector garners the attention of the masses. Did you know that the US movie industry was worth $95.45 billion as of 2022?
Movies feature rich visuals and storytelling elements – powerful tools to communicate your science message. If you like making movies, entering a science communication film contest can become your jam. As a filmmaker, you can create films explaining a complex scientific concept, or do a behind-the-scenes of a science project or scientist’s life.
Consider collaborating with scientific organizations and institutions to create educational science content. Science films can also be a road to pay back the scientific community, as promoting science through films can generate grants and funding.
The Martian, Gravity, and Contact are the few science movies to take inspiration from if you are interested in covering a topic related to space, travel, and artificial intelligence. I also recommend checking out a scientist filmmaker named George Chan, who runs Blue Fire Films. His primary business is shooting science films. You can learn a lot about film direction from George.
If you like cracking jokes and making others laugh, check out stand-up comedy as a science communication route.
Stand-up comedy is a one-of-a-kind method for spreading scientific knowledge to a broad audience. It utilizes relatable humor and personal anecdotes to make even the most complex scientific concepts accessible. It can also help to break stereotypes about scientists. Stand-up comedy combines entertainment with education, making it a fun medium to learn about science.
A solo comedian performs stand-up comedy by standing (or sitting) on a stage and delivering their material directly to the audience. The performer talks to their audience using humor, often sharing personal anecdotes, creating a unique and lasting bond with the audience.
There are quite a few people pursuing science comedy that you can look to for inspiration. I’ll list some of them here:
- Kasha Patel, a science writer covering weather and climate stories, is also a science comedian. She discusses science by joking about it. Check out her TEDx talk on using comedy to communicate science!
- Dr. Glaucomflecken is an ophthalmologist and healthcare content creator. He uses his sense of humor to promote humanity in healthcare.
- Shannon Odell, a neuroscientist and stand-up comedian, communicates brain science in an entertaining way using humor.
Intrigued? You can start practicing your jokes on friends and family, using their feedback to improve, before taking your show on the road.
9. Teaching STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)
It’s often been said that teaching STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) is a form of science communication in and of itself. That’s because STEM teaching often focuses on applying these subjects in the real world. If you have an educational background in any STEM area(s), and a passion for inspiring the next generation, then STEM teaching can be a rewarding science communication career for you. STEM teaching is, in a way, another form of public engagement with science (which we talked about earlier on in this post).
Combining the role of a teacher with that of a science communicator, STEM teaching allows you to have a direct conversation with your audience, involve them in hands-on activities and answer their questions. It makes science more relatable and helps build a love for science in the long run. Prepare the future generations for tackling difficult problems involving science as a STEM teacher. As a teacher, you can also share your SciComm and science teaching insights using social media: here’s a list of nine STEM teachers to follow on Instagram.
Dr. Fergus McAuliffe is an environmental science Ph.D. graduate who eventually chose to enter SciComm. He does all things SciComm, including public engagement and science television shows, as well as advising teachers on ways to improve science education through SciComm. Check out his TEDx talk!
10. Science Games
Did you know that a love of game design translates well to SciComm? By creating science games, you can play your part in engaging the public in science. Interactive board and digital games are fun and help retain science information. The best part is that you can design these games according to different age groups and education levels, making them accessible to everyone. Museums, public libraries, science festivals, and classrooms are some places that could benefit from such science games.
Although designing science games is less common than other science communication pathways, it is still an excellent choice for those passionate about games and science. You can keep up with the Science Game Center blog to learn about ways to develop science board games to educate people about science ideas in a fun way.
Science communication is a continuous process, and there is always room for innovation. It’s an open field, so keeping up with these new changes is essential. Find your interest and use your skills to start spreading science!
Aimen Arshad is a Life Sciences Copywriter & Digital Media Strategist — a self-described “science digital media person.” Follow her on Twitter @AimenCreates.