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Considerations for effective science communication

  • Beneath the Waves

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It is increasingly common for scientists to engage in sharing science-related knowledge with diverse knowledge users—an activity called science communication. Given that many scientists now seek information on how to communicate effectively, we have generated a list of 16 important considerations for those interested in science communication: (1) Define what science communication means to you and your research; (2) Know—and listen to—your target audience; (3) Consider a diverse but coordinated communication portfolio; (4) Draft skilled players and build a network; (5) Create and seize opportunities; (6) Be creative when you communicate; (7) Focus on the science in science communication ; (8) Be an honest broker; (9) Understand the science of science communication; (10) Think like an entrepreneur; (11) Don't let your colleagues stop you; (12) Integrate science communication into your research program; (13) Recognize how science communication enhances your science; (14) Request science communication funds from grants; (15) Strive for bidirectional communication ; and (16) Evaluate, reflect, and be prepared to adapt. It is our ambition that the ideas shared here will encourage readers to engage in science communication and increase the effectiveness of those already active in science communication, stimulating them to share their experiences with others.
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Considerations for effective science
Steven J. Cooke
*, Austin J. Gallagher
, Natalie M. Sopinka
, Vivian M. Nguyen
, Rachel A. Skubel
Neil Hammerschlag
, Sarah Boon
, Nathan Young
, and Andy J. Danylchuk
Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology Laboratory, Department of Biology and Institute for
Environmental Science, Carleton University, Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6, Canada;
Beneath the Waves, Inc.,
Miami, FL 33149, USA;
Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami,
Miami, FL 33149, USA;
Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, University of Windsor,
Windsor, ON N9C 1A2, Canada;
Abess Center for Ecosystem Science & Policy, University of Miami,
Miami, FL 33146, USA;
Creekside Communication, Cobble Hill, BC V0R 1L6, Canada;
Department of
Sociology and Anthropology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON K1N 6N5, Canada;
Department of
Environmental Conservation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003, USA
It is increasingly common for scientists to engage in sharing science-related knowledge with diverse
knowledge usersan activity called science communication. Given that many scientists now seek
information on how to communicate effectively, we have generated a list of 16 important considera-
tions for those interested in science communication: (1) Define what science communication means
to you and your research; (2) Knowand listen toyour target audience; (3) Consider a diverse but
coordinated communication portfolio; (4) Draft skilled players and build a network; (5) Create and
seize opportunities; (6) Be creative when you communicate; (7) Focus on the science in science com-
munication; (8) Be an honest broker; (9) Understand the science of science communication;
(10) Think like an entrepreneur; (11) Dont let your colleagues stop you; (12) Integrate science com-
munication into your research program; (13) Recognize how science communication enhances your
science; (14) Request science communication funds from grants; (15) Strive for bidirectional commu-
nication; and (16) Evaluate, reflect, and be prepared to adapt. It is our ambition that the ideas shared
here will encourage readers to engage in science communication and increase the effectiveness of those
already active in science communication, stimulating them to share their experiences with others.
Key words: science engagement, science outreach, communication science, evaluation of science
communication, academic cultures, professional development
In the broadest sense, effective science communication is the sharing of science-related knowledge
whereby ones efforts have a palpable impact on knowledge users (Burns et al. 2003). Much like teach-
ing, there is no single approach to science communication (Weigold 2001), and thus no single recipe
for success. The audiences of non-experts with whom scientists interact are highly diverse: from inter-
ested to non-interested laypeople, engaged stakeholders and policymakers, and scientific colleagues
from other disciplines. The reasons scientists give for engaging in science communication are
also quite varied (Poliakoff and Webb 2007), including: grant requirements, a genuine interest
in public engagement, and feelings of moral obligation. The intended outcomes of science
Citation: Cooke SJ, Gallagher AJ,
Sopinka NM, Nguyen VM, Skubel RA,
Hammerschlag N, Boon S, Young N, and
Danylchuk AJ. 2017. Considerations for
effective science communication. FACETS 2:
233248. doi:10.1139/facets-2016-0055
Editor: Victoria Metcalf
Received: October 3, 2016
Accepted: December 15, 2016
Published: March 7, 2017
Copyright: © 2017 Cooke et al. This work is
licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY
4.0), which permits unrestricted use,
distribution, and reproduction in any
medium, provided the original author(s) and
source are credited.
Published by: Canadian Science Publishing
FACETS | 2017 | 2: 233248 | DOI: 10.1139/facets-2016-0055 233
communication activities also range from changing human behaviour (e.g., increasing participation in
recycling programs, influencing how someone might vote) to simply educating, informing, or enter-
taining an audience.
For the last half century, science communication has primarily been the responsibility of teachers,
outreach coordinators, or trained science writers and journalists with a penchant for translating often
complicated science into compelling storylines or concepts easily understood by non-expert publics
(Durant et al. 1989). Today, scientists themselves often engage in some form(s) of science communi-
cation beyond peer-reviewed publications, which primarily target their peers. This occurs irrespective
of sector (e.g., government, academic, or industry) or career stage (i.e., graduate student, senior scien-
tist, or emeritus professor). Although many scientists do science communication voluntarily, it is also
increasingly expected of scientists (explicitly or implicitly) and can even be a specific institutional
requirement for some researchers (e.g., through tenure and promotion evaluations and (or) granting/
funding bodies). We presume that some scientists want to do science communication, whereas others
feel obligated to do it.
Given that most scientists lack formal training in science communication, it is not surprising to
observe a variety of efforts and outcomes (Treise and Weigold 2002). For that reason, many members
of the scientific community actively seek input, ideas, and inspiration on science communication from
specialists (e.g., a public relations or communications office at their institution), non-scientific institu-
tions (e.g., businesses), and colleagues who are known for successful communication experiences or
initiatives. Indeed, science communication is now featured at academic conferences, embedded in
professional development workshops at academic institutions, discussed in prominent news outlets,
critiqued by political pundits, and mused about in the digital realm. Science communication has even
served as an intermediate form of peer review (e.g., the #arseniclife story; Yeo et al. In press). There
are now scholarly papers, several of which draw on the rich literatures of education and communica-
tion theory (e.g., Logan 2001;Glanz and Bishop 2010). These include topics such as how to engage in
the delivery of various elements of science communication (e.g., how to use social media effectively
(Parsons et al. 2013), and how to deliver an effective TED-style talk (Sugimoto et al. 2013)).
The typical scientist is thus more active and engaged in science communication than they were a
decade ago (Liang et al. 2014). Given that many scientists seek information on how to communicate
or how to communicate betterwe have generated a list of key considerations and tips for those
interested in engaging in science communication. This list is not intended to be prescriptive, nor
do we assume that all considerations are relevant to all readers. This list is also not a how-to guide,
although we do provide a list of key references related to science communication, which can be fur-
ther pursued by readers (Table 1).
We submit that science communication can be tailored to fit the motives, time commitments, resour-
ces, and personality of a given scientist or research group, and the specific topic, study species, system,
or process that they wish to share. We provide some ideas on possible ways to do so. We recognize
that this list is not exhaustive and that there are many benefits that accrue to the individual science
communicator, to the scientific enterprise more broadly, as well as to society as a whole (see Nisbet
and Scheufele 2009). Our perspective is shaped by the fact that all of the authors here are engaged
in environmental science and, as such, most of the examples that we present have links to the environ-
ment. Nonetheless, we submit that the tips that we list here are broadly relevant to scientists in any
discipline interested in science communication. The text is minimally referenced in an effort to main-
tain focus on the elegant simplicity of the tips. Although we focus on efforts where simple and specific
actions can be undertaken by the would-be science communicator, this is not intended to detract from
the important two-way nature of some communication strategies and approaches that science com-
municators should strive for.
Cooke et al.
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1. Define what science communication means to you and your
Conceptualizing why we, as scientists, do our work may be a helpful exercise in determining whether
or not to proceed with science communication. If the answer is to increase the spread of knowledge
and (or) be a driving force in changing policy or decision-making, then science communication is
clearly relevant to accomplishing those goals. Subsequent questions can be used to define exactly what
types of communication efforts are best suited to our research programs.
Although some scientists limit themselves to sharing ideas via social media, others are more interested
in in-person science communication activities such as public events. Ultimately, you must decide
what audience you want to reach, what your objectives are for communicating science (a step that also
helps when measuring success later on), and determine the best approach to engage that audience
given your available time, abilities, and resources. The more comfortable you are with your chosen
communication technique, the more effective it will be.
2. Knowand listen toyour target audience
Every audience is different, not only demographically but also with respect to background knowledge,
personality, worldview, cultural norms, and preferences. Indeed, in some cases, science communication
efforts focusing on non-interested or hostile demographics may be part of a broader plan to increase
education around politically controversial topics (i.e., climate change, vaccination). Knowing your audi-
ence is critical for connecting with them (Wilson et al. 2016). Getting to know your audience also takes
forethought, observation, imagination, and, yes, research. Think critically about what aspect of your
science is best suited to the target audience. It is also important that the information you share is of
appropriate complexity. For example, you would describe your research process differently to a group
of undergraduates than to policymakersand even specialized audiences like policymakers are not
homogeneous. Get to know the people with whom you are attempting to communicate.
Table 1. Key resources on science communication for scientists.
Resource Link
American Academy for the Advancement of Science
Small Pond Science List of Science Communication
Iowa State University Science Communication Project
Canadian Science PublishingScience Communication
and Media
Union of Concerned ScientistsTips and Tools for
Science Communicators
Integration and Application Network
Inspiring AustraliaScience Communication Toolkit
European CommissionGuide to Successful
Communication and
COMPASS Online See their blog and COMPASS Points
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3. Consider a diverse but coordinated communication portfolio
In todays media landscape, a strikingly wide range of communication strategies, platforms, ave-
nues, channels, and techniques are available even to less technologically savvy scientists. A
scattershot approach, however, is less effective than a planned and coordinated one. Reaching
multiple target audiences in ways that they find convenient and credible requires strategy. For
example, peer-reviewed articles are seen as highly credible sources to scientists, but others find
them difficult to access and interpret. If you coordinate the publication of a new research paper
with an accompanying infographic, blog post, video summary, Twitter campaign, or press release,
news of your research can reach a much larger audience while maintaining the credibility of peer
4. Draft skilled players and build a network
Venturing into the uncharted waters of science communication can be an intimidating experi-
ence, particularly for researchers with little experience. Once youve decided on a particular
approach or message, consider creating a collaborative team that integrates both newcomers
and veterans of the trade. In some cases, for example, graduate students and junior scholars have
become science communication leaders in their research communities, and subsequently mentor
their more senior colleagues. In addition, many institutions have a dedicated fundraising/
advancement or public relations team, which includes communication and outreach staff.
Seek out this team to help you develop and implement science communication programs.
Another group that is receiving attention in science communication research is knowledge
brokers (e.g., Meyer 2010). Knowledge brokers are people who (intentionally or unintentionally)
connect different groups such as academia and industry or government, and therefore serve
as key conduits for the movement of knowledge and influence. Although it is sometimes
difficult to identify knowledge brokers, they are potentially highly valuable members of your
5. Create and seize opportunities
Seeking out opportunities for science communication is crucial. Journalists, for example,
sometimes contact researchers to cover their work, whereas researchers sometimes pitch ideas
directly to journalists. Being able to create these opportunities and also to seize serendipitous
opportunities is critical for amplifying your message. Another aspect of seizing opportunity
includes finding ways to improve your own science communication skills via programs like the
Aldo Leopold Fellowship Program, conference workshops, or media training through an
academic institution.
6. Be creative when you communicate
Creativity entails generating new ideas and this is an essential part of the scientific process
(Loehle 1990;Aslan et al. 2014). Extending creativity to how we communicate science can bring
about unique deliverables (e.g., Dance Your Ph.D.; that have the potential
to engage new audiences, including those with a limited interest in science (Dowell 2014;Sayer
et al. 2014). For example, Guerilla Science is an organization that integrates creative science
communication into leisure and entertainment events, including the Glastonbury music festival.
In2013,festivalgoerswereabletonavigateahuman-sized rat maze, which was a replica of the
radial arm maze test used in scientific research. The exhibit engaged participants in considering
Cooke et al.
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the contributions of animal models to scientific advancement, and related topics such as animal
welfare. If youre interested in harnessing and honing your creativity try seeking out new sources
of research information (e.g., poetry and historical records) and new venues for creative thinking
(e.g., museums and nature reserves). Consider connecting with creative professionals and
colleagues from communication, art, or journalism departments. When you feel comfortable with
sharing your creative side, consider participating in events at familiar outlets of science commu-
nication (e.g., conferences) that use unfamiliar creative approaches (e.g., a poetry slam, which is
a competition adjudicated on the recitation of original poetry). Poetry slams have occurred as
social events at conferences (e.g., Bird Jam & Poetry Slam at the 2016 North American
Ornithological Conference) and as public events hosted by conference organizers (e.g., The
Windy City Physics Slam at the 2016 International Conference on High Energy Physics).
Integrating creativity and going beyond the lecture and the lecture hall when communicating sci-
ence has thus far generated positive feedback from both audience and scientist participants
(Bultitude and Sardo 2012;Dowell 2014;Sayer et al. 2014;Dance 2016).
7. Focus on the science in science communication
Good science is the foundation of quality science communication by scientists. Remember that
people are interested in what you have to say because you have a unique science-based perspective
on something they care about. High-profile results published in high-ranking journals should not
be a prerequisite for science communication. Good science and a compelling story, however, are
critical. Avoid patronizing an audience by oversimplifying or glossing over important scientific
details, as interested people want to hear about the scientific process and see the data themselves.
Discussing challenges, dead ends, and puzzles as well as results gives your work a narrative arc to
data and dont oversell or overstate your results. If your data are interesting to you, they will be
interesting to others.
8. Be an honest broker
Scientists are expected to avoid overextrapolating results beyond their own expertise and data (Pielke
2007). In a similar vein, be wary of sensationalizing and overpromising research outcomes. Focus on
what you know. Its easy to speculate beyond ones expertise, but usually not advisable, as the audience
(which may include policymakers and management authorities) is relying on you to offer the
best interpretations that you can and that includes being open about what you dontknow.Ifyou
choose to advocate a particular view or position, be clear as to when you are presenting your own
opinions (Lackey 2007). Effective science communication is based heavily on trust, so be an
honest broker.
9. Understand the science of science communication
Psychologists, sociologists, and communication scholars have a long history of studying how people
engage with different types of science communication (Fischhoff 2013). Factors like perceived trust-
worthiness, reputation, values, political leanings, age, gender, educational background, and personal
risk tolerance all have an effect on peoples perceptions of a speaker and their message (Fiske and
Dupree 2014). High-quality journals such as Public Understanding of Science (
and Science Communication ( offer a wealth of conceptual and empirical insight
into the effectiveness of different techniques. Better communication can be learned. Peruse these
sources to fuse the art and science of science communication or connect with researchers in these
fields to learn more.
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10. Think like an entrepreneur
Borrow ideas from the startup world. Starting any new science communication platform, plan, or
event is like starting and running a business, which requires marketing. The point of marketing is to
build a brand and (or) reputation and to gain your audiences trust. As you develop your marketing
approach, you will need to take risks (invest your time and reputation), convince people that you
are worth the risk (find investors), secure support (financial, in-kind, and eventually both), and show-
case yourself and your product (i.e., research).
11. Dont let your colleagues stop you
Free yourself from worrying about being seen as a self-promoter. Science communication is a public
service and should be approached that way. If you are overly worried about what colleagues and
peers think, you may limit yourself to appeasing only those people in your small professional
bubble. However, you also want to ensure that whatever you are traditionally expected to do is get-
ting done (e.g., an academic must also do teaching, service, and research) and done well, or you risk
having your science communication activities viewed as problematic or unnecessary. Although the
culture around science communication is changing, we all have a role to play in emphasizing its
value during the hiring process or tenure and promotion assessments. Always ensure that your
science communication is underpinned by high-quality scienceyour colleagues will definitely care
about that.
12. Integrate science communication into your research
Science communication is rarely top of mind during the research process, but it should be. People
find the scientific process itself quite interesting (witness the interest in particle colliders,
gene arrays, and animal tracking devices), not only the results and outcomes. Documenting the
journeyfor example, in still photos and videocan help tell the entire story of the research. You
may not be able to comment on the findings, but there is much that can be shared about the
journey. Doing so can also help stakeholders understand the realities of science: things like uncer-
tainty, variation, trial and error, and the surprising and surreal moments we all experience when
we learn something new.
13. Recognize how science communication enhances your
Engaging in science communication does not have to detract from your science; in fact, it can
wise be used toward science productivity, it doesnt have to be an either/or trade-off. Although
the public through citizen science, for example. Citizen scientists can play a role in everything
from data collection (e.g., helping deploy traps, sort through photos, count trees) to data analysis
(e.g., mapping craters, the debris ejected around them, and boulders/boulder fields, on the aste-
roid Vesta; see These citizen scientists may be a group of stu-
dents or interns, or even people participating via online activities. Science communication can
also bring attention to and increase the visibility of your work, which in turncangeneratefunding
from non-traditional sources and help attract more talented students or staff that can directly
increase scientific productivity.
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14. Request science communication funds from grants
Many funding agencies encourage and even require some form of science communication and
engagement. As effective science communication can cost time and money, you can directly request
funds for science communication in research grants. These funds can be used to support activities,
buy tools, and even pay staff to do the communications for you (i.e., hiring a filmmaker). Moreover,
if the science communication and research activities are synergistic (e.g., citizen science), funding
for science communication will actually help fund the research itself. Additionally, science communi-
cation efforts may open up educational funding opportunities that, as a byproduct, help support the
15. Strive for bidirectional communication
Many of the tips covered here focus on one-way communication efforts. Although this is by far the most
common modality adopted by scientists and engineers (see Davies 2008), one-way communication is
not nearly as effective in influencing opinions and behaviours as communication activities that involve
more direct public engagement with science. Efforts to engage in dialogue and participatory forms of
engagement (including citizen science) are most likely to cause real and lasting behavioural change in
participants (Monroe et al. 2008) and are captured in contemporary definitions of science communica-
tion (Burns et al. 2003;Bublea et al. 2009). Moreover, there is also opportunity for the science commu-
nicator (i.e., scientist) to learn from these interactions with the broader community, which can improve
their research and subsequently reframe the way in which it is contextualized.
16. Evaluate, reflect, and be prepared to adapt
Science communication is an iterative process that requires continuous evaluation, reflection, and
adaptation (Varner 2014). Depending on your goals (e.g., number of paper downloads versus
changes in stakeholder attitude) and the communication medium itself, relatively straightforward
tools can be used to evaluate success (e.g., built-in analytics of social media platforms). As science
communication is also a multidirectional process among communicators and audiences, services
can be sought from communication consultants to survey your audience and gauge the success of
science communication efforts.
Interpreting the data that these tools/services generate and
determining the effectiveness of your efforts will also depend on the objectives of the science
communication plan. It can be helpful to share your evaluation results with scientist colleagues
and science communication practitioners. Keep in mind that the time of peak impact of your
science communication will vary: a social media post is immediately digested by platform users,
whereas impacts may be protracted for policy or management issues. When you choose to evalu-
ateyoureffortscouldinfluencetheinformation gleaned. Evaluate your own knowledge base as
well. Your communication skills will continue to broaden as you gain experience, ideas, and
resources. Evaluate regularly, review and adjust goals as necessary, and anticipate and embrace
the evolution of your science communication strategies.
The tips provided here are intended to guide scientists who are either planning to door are already
engaged inscience communication. As the list is not exhaustive, we encourage those interested in
science communication to read widely about science communication and access other helpful resources
(see Box 1 for examples of common communication media and key references; see Table 1 for list of
Note that there are ethical issues that arise from research that involves human participants and personal data. It is
important to secure appropriate approvals.
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Box 1. Summary of common communication media.
There are many avenues available for science communication (see Kuehne et al. 2014 for a laun-
dry list of approaches along with a thoughtful assessment of the relative time investment and
benefits); in general, these techniques are not standalone and are in fact best when combined:
for example, using various social media platforms to share a video abstract of your recent
Video: A video abstract can summarize your work in a visually compelling way, illustrating
your methods and outcomes in a way that a news piece or blog cannot portray (Berkowitz
2013). Videos can be a range of lengths from 60 s (Natural Sciences and Engineering
Research Council of CanadasScience, Action!) to feature documentary length and involve
any level of time or resources the researcher has available (creativity and teamwork go a long
way). This approach has already garnered significant attention and support from the research
community (e.g., in the form of science film festivals (Staaterman et al. 2014); see Fig. 1a,1b;
the ever-popular TED talk platform (Sugimoto and Thelwall 2013)), and some journals now
require submission of a video abstract. As this technique tends not to suit in-depth or exten-
sively technical content, it is best to link viewers to further resources to learn more. Key
resources include: Donovan (2014); The Scientist Videographer (thescientistvideographer.
Visual art/photography: Similar to video, visual art and photography appeal to the creative
sense. These media can reach different audiences (e.g., via a gallery exhibition) and showcase
the beauty of a scientific process that may not have been apparent previously (e.g., microscopy
or macro-lens photography revealing images imperceptible to the human eye). Beyond the
obvious photo-ops, there is also opportunity to generate comics or other graphic design features
that resonate with the public (see Fig. 2). Key resources include: CommNatural (commnatural.
com); Alex Wild (
Performance art/music: Theatre, dance, and music can all be effective means of scientific com-
munication if ample care is taken to think carefully how to do so. If one does not have experience
or expertise with these media, it may be possible to collaborate with creative professionals. Key
resources include: Klionsky (2015).
Infographics: Visual representations of data can be an effective means for conveying simple or
complex ideas. Good infographics involve the communication of facts and data by means of
charts, graphs, maps, and diagrams in a visually stimulating way (Cairo 2013). Infographics are
well-suited for print magazines and posters and can also be shared easily online in an electronic
format (see Fig. 3). Key resources include: Mind the Graph (
Social media: Social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) are excellent for shar-
ing links to your work with a broad audience, or a target group (e.g., users of a Twitter hashtag
(Darling et al. 2013), Facebook page), and also for conversing with colleagues and publics regard-
ing your work, or a topic in general (e.g., Twitter or Reddit Q&A with scientists; see Bik and
Goldstein 2013;Parsons et al. 2013;Peoples et al. 2016). Social media, however, is very transient
in that a post may appear only briefly upon a usersfeedand requires both repetition and atten-
tiveness to maximize effectiveness.
Speaking/public outreach: This technique spans day-to-day interactions and formal engage-
ments. Engaging with colleagues, students, policymakers, and publics in an informal setting often
requires condensing your science down to a quickly communicable and digestible vignette
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web-based resources, many of which are lists of other resources). As a starting point, browse relevant
blogs on science communication (e.g., From the Lab Bench,; Science
Communication Breakdown,; Science Borealis, or follow the extensive discourse on science communication on Twitter via
#scicomm and #sciengage. There is an increasing number of peer-reviewed papers that review
communication and behavioural theories underpinning science communication, examine chal-
lenges of science communication, and provide practical advice on science communication
(Brossard et al. 2005;Bik and Goldstein 2013). There are also papers that provide general guid-
ance on science communication (e.g., Brossard and Scheufele 2013;Kuehne et al. 2014;Liang
et al. 2014) as well as direction to those developing course materials to train others (including
in the academy) in science communication (Trench 2012;Dilger and McKeith 2015;Hundey
et al. 2016;LaRocca et al. 2016). There are also a growing number of organizations and companies
that offer training or consultation services in science communication (e.g.,;, or provide platforms for hosting science communication events (e.g., For those with specific interests in science communication related to the
environment, we encourage you to consult general frameworks on environmental education and
outreach (e.g., Monroe et al. 2008;Jacobson et al. 2015).
It is worth noting that science communication is being recognized as part of a broader set of skills and
activities necessary to be relevant as a scientist (see Chapman et al. 2015;Peoples et al. 2016). We acknowl-
edge we are neither professionally trained in science communication nor scholars of science
Box 1. (concluded )
(e.g., the elevator pitch), whereas conference presentations, public talks, or community outreach
events allow for more in-depth explanations, while still ensuring the language is specifically
geared to the audience at hand. Key resources include: Kwok (2013).
Press/popular media: If the opportunity arises (or is created by the researcher), this medium can
be excellent for reaching a much broader audience (newspaper readers, frequenters of science news
websites (e.g., ScienceDaily and Nature News)). However, the researcher themselves will likely
be the subject, not the author, of the piece, so it is important to monitor the outcome for accuracy.
Key resources include: Deep Sea News (
a-field-guide/); AAAS (; SIRC (
Blog: This mode allows the scientist (or even their graduate student team) to communicate their
work in a more informal and personable way. Blogs provide an opportunity to share personal
anecdotes of the process, digitally hyperlink to similar projects, and candidly explore future direc-
tions. Blogs may have wide readership or reach a very specific audience. Key resources include:
Kouper (2010),Shema et al. (2012),Dennen (2014), and Jarreau (2016).
Curriculum: Working with educators and school boards to include topics related to your
research in their curriculum can introduce new concepts to younger generations, with the
opportunity for personal interaction with the researcher themselves (or their graduate
student team). The time commitment may be higher than desired, so collaboration with edu-
cation specialists is advantageous. Key resources include: University of WashingtonsEngage
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Fig. 1. (a) Image showing an audience participating in a Beneath The Waves (BTW; film festival. BTW film festivals occur in different
locations around the globe and feature a handful of films from their collection highlighting local and global conservation issues. At the end of the films, the audi-
ence interacts with invited scientists and engages in informal discussion about science and aquatic conservation. There is also a series of events (b)targeted
toward youth and delivered in schools. Images courtesy of Beneath The Waves and used with permission.
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Fig. 2. Cartoon demonstrating the simple concept of trophic ecology. Image courtesy of Squidtoons ( and used with permission.
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Fig. 3. Infographic on the ecology of great white sharks. Image courtesy of Neil Hammerschlag, University of Miami.
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communication. Indeed, most of what we have learned about science communication has not come from
a classroom or a journal article, but rather by simply giving it a try. Importantly, we have learned much
about science communication by discussing it with like-minded individuals and by making mistakes along
the way. Those engaged and proficient in science communication are often very forthcoming with ideas
onate with readers and in doing so will encourage them to engage in science communication. For those
already active in science communication, we hope that these ideas will increase the effectiveness of their
communication activities and that they will be empowered to mentor others wishing to become more
involved with science communication.
Cooke is supported by NSERC and the Canada Research Chairs Program. Cooke, Young, and Nguyen
are further supported by Ocean Tracking Network Canada. Sopinka is supported by Mitacs. Gallagher
is supported by Beneath the Waves.
Author contributions
Conceived and designed the study: SJC, AJG, RAS, NH. Drafted or revised the manuscript: SJC, AJG,
Competing interests
AJG is the CEO of Beneath The Waves, which engages in science communication. SB is a writer for
Science Borealis. NMS was a freelance contributor to the Canadian Science Publishing blog, now
employed by Canadian Science Publishing, but was not involved in review or editorial decisions
regarding this manuscript. SJC is currently serving as a Subject Editor for FACETS, but was not
involved in review or editorial decisions regarding this manuscript.
Data accessibility statement
All relevant data are within the paper.
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... The purpose of a science report is to clearly communicate the key message regarding scientific findings; is it meaningful or not [47,48]. To fulfill this purpose, a clear explanation regarding problem as background, the hypothesis, the methodology, the result/findings and its interpretation must be delivered sequentially and gradually. ...
... Science reports tend to have a more rigid and typical format than any other non-science reports. The unique format is calculated to clearly define the key message of the scientific stage [11,47,48]. It does this through indicating previously existing scientific process, the significance of the current scientific process conducted, the problem and or the hypothesis, what experimentation or trial was actually conducted, what data was collected and found, and finally the interpretation regarding what the findings mean and imply [47,48]. ...
... The unique format is calculated to clearly define the key message of the scientific stage [11,47,48]. It does this through indicating previously existing scientific process, the significance of the current scientific process conducted, the problem and or the hypothesis, what experimentation or trial was actually conducted, what data was collected and found, and finally the interpretation regarding what the findings mean and imply [47,48]. ...
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... The perhaps biggest challenge is communicating science's inherent uncertainty, complexity, and tentativeness appropriately and with impact (Cooke et al., 2017). For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, rapid dissemination of findings was crucial. ...
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Communicating research findings to the public in a clear but engaging manner is challenging, yet central for maximizing their societal impact. This systematic review aimed to derive evidence-based strategies for science communication from experimental studies. Three databases were searched in December 2022. Experimental studies published in English or German were included if they tested the effect of providing written information about science to adults aged 16+ years by assessing the impact on at least one of four domains of science communication aims (understanding and knowledge, attitudes and trust, intention and behavior, engagement). A total of 171 studies were included. Derived strategies include avoiding jargon, carefully structuring texts, including citations and expert sources, being mindful about how and when to indicate conflict or uncertainty in science, using neutral language, and highlighting Open Science principles and replicability. They can be used to communicate science effectively to lay audiences, benefitting society.
... These KE specialists are promoting research and its results on behalf of scientists, may have the time, skills and confidence required for effective outreach. This may particularly be true for outreach as an iterative, two-way process which can be more meaningful in building trust among scientists and the public (Varner, 2014;Cooke et al., 2017;Reincke et al., 2020). This lends some evidence to the existing calls for more knowledge brokers or boundary spanners at the science and society interface (Hering, 2016;Cooke et al., 2020). ...
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... We emphasized that we can discuss anything that could contribute to science communication, even if a suggestion seems unconventional at first. Inspiration for ideas can be found, e.g., in the works of Illingworth [14] and Cooke et al. [15]. Their suggestions range from science festivals to book clubs, but also contain some general advice on effective knowledge communication. ...
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a major goal of graduate education is the development of students as “stewards of the discipline,” scholars who can create and preserve knowledge and responsibly translate it through writing, teaching, and practical applications ([5][1]). These qualities are consistent with the American
• Graduate students are trained to communicate effectively to other scientists. • Less attention is paid to the training of graduate students to communicate to non-scientific audiences though this will make up the bulk of their professional communications. • Therefore, attention should and is being placed on the development of these skills among graduate students. • Mentors have a responsibility to foster these skills in their students and allow them opportunities to practice effective communication while students have a responsibility to both seek out and take advantage of opportunities. • Together, mentors and students can expand their abilities to communicate science to broad audiences, improving the professional careers of students and broadening the impact of science on society at large.
Using the “#arseniclife” controversy as a case study, we examine the roles of blogs and Twitter in post-publication review. The controversy was initiated by a scientific article about bacteria able to substitute arsenic for phosphorus in its genetic material. We present the debate chronologically, using prominent online media to reconstruct the events. Using tweets that discussed the controversy, we conducted quantitative sentiment analysis to examine skeptical and non-skeptical tones on Twitter. Critiques of and studies refuting the arsenic life hypothesis were publicized on blogs before formal publication in traditional academic spaces and were shared on Twitter, influencing issue salience among a range of audiences. This case exemplifies the role of new media in informal post-publication peer review, which can complement traditional peer review processes. The implications drawn from this case study for future conduct and transparency of both formal and informal peer review are discussed.