“Science and everyday life cannot and
should not be separated.”
Communicating science to nonspecialist audiences is something scientists do almost every day, be that from writing grant applications and teaching students to participating in public outreach events or speaking to their company's upper management.
But knowing how to communicate science effectively to these different groups is a skill not always taught in school.
Below are some useful resources on communicating science effectively to nonspecialist audiences.
“AAAS Communication Toolkit” by the American Association for the Advancement of Science
- Provides an overview of communication goals, audiences, and messages for public outreach.
- Includes communicating science online and in-person.
“SCOPE (Science Communication Online Programme)” by Northwestern University
- A free, NSF-funded online course that introduces graduate students to effective science communication techniques.
- Includes lessons on audience awareness, limiting use of jargon, communicating with visuals, and more.
Remember—even when jargon terms are defined in a text, readers still disengage. So limit your use of jargon as much as possible! Only two or three new words at most per lesson.
“How to present science lessons to young students” by the American Chemical Society
“Teaching science to young students” by funsciencedemos
Materials science demos and activities
“Materials Science Classroom Kits” by ACerS
- If a lab is already equipped with the necessary components and supplies to perform the demonstrations, the lessons are downloadable for free.
“SPS Demonstrations” by the Society of Physics Students
- Each demonstration includes parts lists, instructions, key physical concepts to explain, and demonstration videos, where appropriate. Concepts are explained at elementary, middle, and high school levels.
“Materials Science Education Activities” by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Materials Research, Science, and Engineering Center Education and Outreach Group
- Hands-on activities are categorized based on materials science topic and include suggestions on how to present and explain the concepts to students.
- Also includes digital games and video lab manuals.
“Materials Science Outreach” by the National Science Foundation GK-12 and Research Experience for Teachers Programs
“Materials Science Experiments and Demonstrations” by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Materials Science and Technology Teachers Handbook)
“Glass” by CeRTEV and International Commission on Glass
- This comic series teaches about various aspects of glass, including what it is, everyday applications, and how to recycle.
- The authors studied science communication using this comic series. They presented part of their results at the Public Communication of Science and Technology Conference in 2018 (Dunedin, New Zealand). Check out their paper here.
“Spectra” by Becky Thompson (American Physical Society)
- This comic teaches about different topics in physics, including lasers, sounds waves, and electricity and magnetism.
- First issue: Spectra, The Original Laser Superhero
- Find more issues of Spectra here.
Effective communication resources
“Am I making myself clear? A scientist’s guide to talking to the public” by Cornelia Dean
“Science communication: A practical guide for scientists” by Laura Bowater and Kay Yeoman
“Trees, maps, and theorems” by Jean-Luc Doumont