Start Talking Science:
An Event to Help Scientists Communicate with the Public
By: Kelly Franklin
On September 26, 2019, the Science History Institute in Philadelphia hosted the 6th Annual Start Talking Science (STS) poster session. Undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, educators, and professionals from surrounding institutions came together to present their research in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine. The goal of this event was to increase public awareness and promote accessibility of scientific research that is being conducted locally.
STS was conceived and organized by Drexel University Physics faculty member Christy Love, PhD. The first event was held in August of 2014 and featured 10 local scientists interested in bringing their research to the general public. Since then, STS has attracted greater numbers of presenters and attendees every year.
This growing audience exemplifies increasing public interest in science communication coming directly from the source: scientists. Zenobia Cofer, PhD, AMWA member, presented her postdoctoral research at the first STS poster session.Since then, she has
become an STS board member, providing feedback to scientists interested in developing their communication and presentation skills. With the gain in momentum surrounding the event, the ability to communicate science to the public becomes increasingly vital to academic and industry scientists alike.
In preparing posters for STS, presenters are expected to write in non-technical language appropriate for the general public. STS board members and previous presenters provide feedback at communication workshops held at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), one of the program's sponsors. During these workshops, presenters break into small groups where they discuss scientific communication and collaborate on ways to improve the presentation of their research to people unfamiliar with complex scientific subjects. Ultimately, each researcher receives feedback from both STEM experts and trained communicators on their presentations to help them hone their scientific content and the clarity of their message for the public. Through these workshops, scientists gain confidence and build communication skills for
disseminating their findings to a broader audience. The feedback provided by professionals is invaluable for many presenters at early stages in their careers. STS achieves more than simply informing the public about research being conducted in the Philadelphia area; it also provides participating scientists with the skills to create interesting narratives that engage audiences. These stories often compel listeners to dig deeper into complex scientific topics than they ordinarily would have.
Given the current skepticism surrounding science, the ability to clearly and concisely communicate it is imperative to fostering a greater connection between scientific research and the general public. STS is one of a few events to bridge this gap and improve the public relations surrounding academic and industry scientific research. As a community of scientific communicators, AMWA knows the importance of providing accurate and understandable information to the public. Organizations like STS help all of us in our efforts to promote a more scientifically