So You Want to do #SciComm

I'm participating today in a "Science Communication Careers Panel" for the ASBMB (American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) students at UT (University of Texas at Austin). Thank you to my hosts and to my friend KP (Kristen Procko aka Dr. Molecule aka Molecular Memory on YouTube and Crash Course Organic Chemistry instructor) for the invitation!

My overachiever side wanted to make a slide show presentation, but my recovering perfectionist side reminded me that less is more.

So I wrote this blog post.

I was sent this list of prompts ahead of time, and these questions may or may not come up during the panel, but just in cases (and for future reference), here are my answers:

QUESTION: What do you do for a science communication career?

I work for myself, at a company I started with my husband, Socratica. We make beautiful STEM educational videos!

QUESTION: How did you get into this career or on the path of science communication?

I was a research scientist for many years, and I also went into teaching science. These two jobs involved a lot of science communication already, and when I decided I wanted to work for myself, it seemed an obvious choice. My husband and I quit our jobs and started Socratica from scratch. We are self-taught filmmakers, self-taught business owners, self-taught everything. We wear a lot of hats to get this job done. I don't recommend anyone just up and quit their job. Don't do what I did. Be smarter. Get someone else to pay you to do this work!

QUESTION: Why do you think science communication skills are important?

It seems obvious to me now, but honestly, it wasn't until I was in grad school that I realized that "doing science" involved so much more than being at the bench, performing experiments, which had been almost my entire experience up 'til then. It's a whole interconnected web of people and actions. The PI of a lab doesn't decide the lab's direction in a vacuum—they exchange ideas with other scientists, members of the lab, grant committees, etc. We discussed our science every week in lab meetings, and more informally, every day as we ran into problems and questions that we'd work out together as a team in the lab. When we'd take our story out into conferences, we were doing Science Communication. When I taught classes, that was SciComm. When I had conversations with friends and family members about how your immune system works, and how vaccines work, that was SciComm. SciComm really is all around. It's not a stand-alone activity. SciComm is an essential part of how science is done.

QUESTION: How can others get involved in science communication as a career or in their community?

This is still a pretty new, wide-open field. You don't have to officially declare SciComm as your full-time career to wind up doing a lot of SciComm, and even making a little bit of cash. I observe great opportunities cropping up all the time while I'm wasting time on Twitter. I don't have the bandwidth to take on any more SciComm jobs, so I try to re-share them towards people I know to be interested in this kind of work. So do a search on social media for #SciComm #JobOpportunity and also just make it known to your peers that you are available. There's a reason why you see the same faces over and over doing SciComm—it's very often literally "who you know" that gets you the job.

QUESTION: What are the best ways to improve one's science communication skills?

There's no substitute for practice. Volunteer to give a lunch talk to senior citizens. Meet with your local Girl Scouts and Camp Fire Girls to tell them about your work, and help them with their science fair projects. Record a short video about your latest experiment and send it to your parents. Start your own YouTube channel.


My first book HOW TO BE A GREAT STUDENT is available for purchase as an e-book, a paperback, or if you sign up for Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for free.

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