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How does a former scientist help with science communication?

Scott_SGG
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How does a former scientist help with science communication?
Thu, Jan 26, 2012, 6:46 am CST
Hey there, Scott here.

I'm someone who formerly worked in the sciences (PhD and postdoc). for a year or so, I've become intensely interested in finding out how someone not on the inner-loop can help develop and contribute his voice to the purpose of science communications. In an ideal world, that's the type of work I'd like to have - but there really aren't many jobs of that nature that don't require you be a journalist.

I have social blogging experience, but only recently attempted to blog about issues of science, etc. It's not easy going, I imagine, because there's a very full field out there. Additionally, getting someone to come over and critique your writing - or even have a conversation in the comments - is daunting, as I'm sure many here know.

In social blogs, it was easy: make a friendly or funny comment on a blog you like, and someone might come to check you out. And if you have anything compelling to say - there ya go! It's trickier with science blogging. (Or at least it seems so to me). So, I'm kind of at a loss for where to go from here.

Regardless, I've been noting more and more blog "collectives" like this one emerging, which certainly makes it possible for a chorus of voices to be heard more easily. I'm hopeful that this is going to allow more ways of making your voice heard - or getting input from others that you even *have* a voice worth hearing.

OK, I'll shut up for now. Just happy to have the opportunity to voice my thoughts to someone other than myself.

Scott

Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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How does a former scientist help with science communication?
Thu, Aug 05, 2010, 2:26 pm CDT
Great to have you stop by, Scott. This science communication thing is tricky. I don't even think I or this site qualify as anything significant from the community's standpoint, but I think that's finally changing. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and a couple of lucky breaks along the way. Do you have any pieces you'd like us to look at for you? I'm sure we'd all be happy to see what you have to offer from a writing perspective!

Tideliar
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How does a former scientist help with science communication?
Thu, Aug 05, 2010, 2:43 pm CDT
Hi Scott,

A great place to start, if you haven't seen it yet, is a post written by Ed Yong of 'Discover Blogs'.

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2010/07/29/on-the-origin-of-science-writers/

I would suggest that you start keeping a blog and writing entries in as journalistic style as possible. To get tips on style and format simply Google search "writing tips", and variations there of. It is an acquired skill and takes a lot of practice. Once I felt confident I started sending posts to different places and asking if they'd publish. Or try and "guest post" other blogs etc.

I learned to write by blogging at first, then pitching stories to sources like www.lablit.com - the editor was very helpful and when I pestered her about helping me get better. She put me in touch with her copy editors and from then it was just a case of writing, writing, writing. My CV has one page for my scientific accomplishments (publications, grants, awards etc.) and 5 pages for "Science Communication".

Finally, immerse yourself in the culture too. Read prodigiously and write endlessly. You'll develop your voice and style and you'll start to become aware of how many opportunities exist (science press officer etc.). But, it is a hard field to break into and even hader to generate revenue in.

My main writing revenue stream is actually as a copy editor for a science database. I sell reviews and articles when I can, and even once got to help write 5th grade textbooks!

Scott_SGG
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How does a former scientist help with science communication?
Thu, Aug 05, 2010, 3:21 pm CDT
Thanks Brian, I appreciate it. A lot of these collectives are new to me. Last time I considered even attempting to throw myself in front of science-oriented folks, the only one I knew about was scienceblogs.com. Looks like that's changed a bit, and not *just* because of Pepsi :D

Tideliar, I did indeed check Ed's post - back when there were (I think) 40 or 50 replies. I got a bit dismayed by how many began with (paraphrasing) "I was a journalist and..." But, not all came from that background, and times are changing even now, so I'm going to try gleaning out ideas from those replies and see what applies to my slightly unusual situation.

Immersion is a key, for sure.
But FORCING myself to write - even though I feel it will just be a page that no one will see - is a real challenge. But, it's a challenge I'm working on tackling.

Important point - I do know that a living in this field is NOT too common. However, I am curious about jobs like copy editing or anything that requires you to take a technical story and translate it into a language for other folks. It's a transferable skill that certainly applies to science communications.

Thanks again!


Evie
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How does a former scientist help with science communication?
Thu, Aug 05, 2010, 6:59 pm CDT
Hey Scott, try to talk to @iescience on twitter, I think she'll be able to point you in the right direction.

Tideliar
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How does a former scientist help with science communication?
Mon, Aug 09, 2010, 12:35 pm CDT
hi Scott, sorry it's taken me so long to get back.

Go read "On Writing" by Stephen King (yeah, *that* Stephen King). Write everyday. Even if you don't want to, or you think you have nothing to write about. if possible have a set time, an inviolate time for your writing. It's a skill to be developed, and you must work at it... I wasn't born knowing how to shin-kick people in the face. I had to spend hundreds of hours in the gym training... >:)

Scott_SGG
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How does a former scientist help with science communication?
Mon, Aug 09, 2010, 3:05 pm CDT
Evie: Thanks, I went and did that. just got back a nice reply from here. Thanks!
Tideliar: Well, if anyone can write about about writing, it's King, LOL! I'll check it out. *Doing* it is the key, of course. The issue of writing in a vacuum (ie, no critiques, etc) is something which keeps me stalling. Constructive criticism is important to knowing you're not just writing the equivalent of the finger-lips "wibble wibble" sound.

Putting it on a blog with no one looking at it is very depressing, though I'm still (re-)trying.
So the other half (after writing) is probably your idea of pestering someone with both the skills and willingness to look at crap and decide if there's a way to make it not-crap.

Thanks again, all, for the input!
Scott

Laura Tapia
United Academics
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How does a former scientist help with science communication?
Thu, Jan 26, 2012, 6:46 am CST

It is indeed difficult to get in the loop! I am Phd. in gamming and I am now working for an organization that attempts to connect science and society. When it is about getting visits to our blog, for example, it really depends of the topic you publish. Sometimes, audience works pretty random.

Btw, my blog is http://blog.united-academics.org/

 

 

How does a former scientist help with science communication?
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