Has there ever been a more important time for scientists and physicians to learn to communicate effectively to lay audiences? We don’t think so.
Researchers need to be able to talk about their work clearly, concisely and accurately not just to funders and peer reviewers, but to colleagues, patients, and the public at large. They must not only explain the latest findings from the laboratory or clinic, but convey the underlying passion, excitement, and resourcefulness that produced those discoveries. And they must do all this while also learning how to achieve critical distance from their own field in order to become reliable, trustworthy commentators.
With that in mind, the Carter Institute in 2009 began offering workshops taught by nationally prominent science writers to Ph.D. students and post-doctoral fellows in the sciences at NYU. In 2013, we expanded to include the medical school, and in the fall of 2016, we expanded again to reach faculty in the sciences and medicine. In 2018, we expanded one more time, this time by adding spoken-word workshops for faculty who want to improve their skills for TED-type talks and other oral presentations to mass audiences.
To date, 975 scientists have participated. Each workshop consists of four weekly sessions of three hours each. There are typically ten students per workshop. There is no charge to students, and no university credit is given. In the 2020-21 academic year, NYU will offer 12 four-week workshops: eight introductory, two advanced, and two for faculty (one introductory and one advanced).
Workshop graduates have published in dozens of prominent outlets, including Scientific American, Slate, the New York Times, Science and Nature. They have also written books, recorded podcasts, blogged, and participated in live storytelling events such as The Moth, Story Collider and TED. Please see the Alumni Story Gallery to see some of their published work.
The latest project of the Science Communication Workshops is the Cooper Square Review, a new publication devoted to book reviews, essays, and musings from and about the world of science. Take a look!