New Science Communications program at the Australian Rivers Institute

By Dr Chris Brown

A career in science isn’t just about running experiments and analysing data. An important part of a science career is communicating your science, whether that is to other scientists, industry users, policy-makers or the general public.

In a new program we are trialing in 2018 at the Australian Rivers Institute we have awarded Science Communication Cadetships to four of our early career scientists.

The Cadets were selected through a competitive application process that was open to all our PhD students and postdocs. They were awarded a stipend and access to a bespoke training program in science communication. Our cadets in 2018 are Peta Zivec, Man Xiao, Dr Ryan Burrows and Laura Griffiths.

“I think science communication is vital for any science academic, especially those involved with conservation research or any applied field for that matter. Researchers are great at doing their job but different skills are required to effectively advocate for it, so scicomm training provides that “says Laura Griffiths, one of the Scicomm Cadets.

From left: The scicomm cadets Dr Ryan Burrows, Peta Zivec, Laura Griffiths, Man Xiao


In addition to their training, each cadet has been running some special activities designed to hone their science communication skills.

As an example of their activities, Man Xiao is organising and hosting a Twitter conference on Cyanobacteria and Climate Change on October the 24th.

The event will bring together an international audience to participate in a series of structured Tweets where they communicate their work on cyanobacteria.

Twitter conferences are accessible to anyone with internet and a Twitter account. They are an excellent way to increase engagement with science both for non-scientists and also scientists who might find it hard to travel to traditional conferences.

The cadets have been enjoying and challenged by a range of training opportunities.

For instance, last week we had Rebecca Jamieson-Dwyer, editor at the sustainable lifestyle magazine Peppermint train the cadets on how to interview other scientists and write great articles about new science.

Peta and Ryan practice their interview skills with journalist and editor Rebecca Jamieson-Dwyer

Rebecca is a professional journalist with decades of experience in interviewing people for magazine articles. She challenged the cadets to think about how they would bring people into their writing about science. Readers often find personal stories about doing science more engaging than the hard facts.

The cadets were also surprised to learn journalistic skills were transferable back to everyday science activities. One cadet noted that her new interview skills gave her more confidence to talk to senior scientists at conferences.

There is more training and activities to come this year and we look forwards to seeing what creative ideas our science communications cadets come up with.

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