Session: Equity-Focused, Evidence-Based Approaches to Teaching and Assessing SciComm in Higher Education
Science communication for all: Integrating science communication in undergraduate curricula
Wednesday, August 4, 2021
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Sara Yeo, Department of Communication, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
Department of Communication, University of Utah Salt Lake City, UT, USA
Background/Question/Methods Science mis- and disinformation are common in today’s media environment. One potential solution to the proliferation of science falsehoods is to improve engagement between scientists and the citizens they serve. To this end, integrating science communication training based on empirical research in science communication into undergraduate-level curricula is crucial. I argue that students in the sciences should be exposed to the body of research in the science of science communication early in their academic careers as it encourages an understanding of how diverse audiences form opinions and attitudes toward science, which ultimately help them make decisions around scientific issues facing society. Most of us learn about new scientific technologies and issues through media, which include not only traditional forms (e.g., newspapers, television news) but also social media. Yet, few scientists receive training in how best to communicate and engage with general audiences about their research. Empirical studies of public opinion and attitude formation around scientific issues can offer insight into best practices and strategic tactics for engagement and communication, but few graduate students are aware of this body of literature, resulting in many “reinventing the wheel” when looking to engage with non-experts.
Results/Conclusions Many scientists and communicators continue to rely on conveying “just the facts” to lay audiences, which has been shown to have limited effects on people’s attitudes and opinions (Allum et al., 2008), especially when it comes to issues that are controversial in the public sphere (e.g., climate change). Science communication research has advanced beyond the study of knowledge’s effect on attitudes; scholars test hypotheses around strategies and tactics that include emotion (e.g., Lu, 2016; Yeo et al., 2019), humor (e.g., Cacciatore et al., 2020; Yeo et al., 2020, 2021), and narratives (e.g., Lee & Su, 2019), among others. Yet, there is a disconnect between science communication research and its practice. Acquainting future scientists and science communicators with this field of research can help bridge this divide. Additionally, exposure to the science of science communication could encourage undergraduates to choose career paths that are inherently interdisciplinary. Communication is integral to science and developing these skills early in one’s career can improve public engagement efforts as well as professional skills (e.g., grant-writing, presentations) necessary for success.