International study promotes importance of science communication to graduate students

The Canadian government recently released initial findings from a special committee tasked with exploring ways to enhance global recognition for Canadian research excellence.

The committee, led by His Excellency, The Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada and Howard Alper, Chair of the Government of Canada’s Science, Technology, and Innovation Council, proposes that Canadian universities, hospitals and government institutions must do a better job of promoting major scholarly contributions of its scientists, physicians and investigators.

A new internatia-shifting-tide-infographic-lob-1onal study, led by Western University’s Beth Hundey, further bolsters this important shift in thinking about science communication and has identified three key areas for universities to improve on training for graduate students and early-career scientists:

1) Recognize the benefits of training as it improves chances of obtaining funding, furthers academic and non-academic careers, and provides wider visibility of institutions.

2) Develop a strategy to support training that includes students and faculty in science communication curriculum development, provides authentic learning experiences, and supports students taking advantage of existing internal and external training.

3) Facilitate individual approaches to science communication that will allow graduate students to highlight strengths and improve on weaknesses, identify where to best focus efforts based on goals and target audience, and refine skills by communicating science in authentic scenarios.

The study, carried out by early career researchers from Western, University of Minnesota Duluth, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Université Laval, Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, University of Connecticut, University of Washington, University of Regina, Western Alaska Landscape Conservation Cooperative, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Ecology Policy LLC, Stanford University and University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, was based on a survey focused on the perceived importance of science communication and the most prominent gaps in science communication training.

Hundey, an eLearning and Curriculum Specialist in Western’s Teaching Support Centre, is available to comment on this study.

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