Where has this past year gone?! Just a year ago, I received the Robert E. Malouf Scholarship. Now, I’m writing my last blog post as a scholar and preparing to start a fellowship in New Orleans.
Looking back at why I applied for the Malouf Scholarship, I’m proud of how my Master’s research can inform science communication to Oregon Sea Grant’s served coastal communities. I developed a set of five best practices that scientists, natural resource managers, and other science professionals should consider when communicating with their audiences.
So, how can I as a(n) [insert your profession here] be a better communicator? Well….
Best Practice #1: choose appropriate goals and outcomes for communication
First, you should create some goals and outcomes for the communication activity. Consider what you hope to achieve, and how you would measure success of your actions. For example, are you just hoping to inform your audience, or do you want to start a long-term dialogue? Since science communication is not static, these goals and outcomes should be continually evaluated and updated.
Best Practice #2: choose a scope and scale for information
Next, you’ll want to consider an appropriate scope and scale for your information. This includes thinking about the area (both geographic and temporal) and level of detail that your audience might want to hear. Consider including your audience at this step to help determine information needs.
Best Practice #3: design an appropriate communication structure
Once you decide your science communication goal and determine what type of information you want to communicate, then you should develop an appropriate communication structure. What is a sensible order to your information? What graphics or visuals might be used to communicate your information?
Best Practice #4: build relationships with current and new audiences
As a science communicator, you won’t be talking to an empty room, but to people who have unique perspectives, information needs, and levels of understanding. Building relationships early in the communication process may help improve information delivery and create buy-in with your audience. Your audience should understand why they matter in your communication process.
Best Practice #5: choose an appropriate communication tool
By considering the goals, information, and communication structure, you might have started thinking about what tool will be most effective for your science communication. If your goal is simply to inform, then a presentation, video, or social media may be an effective communication tool. However, different structures would need to be used to have a dialogue and develop a two-way relationship with your audience. Again, consider including your audience in developing this communication structure so it meets their needs.
Before rolling out the communication tool, test that it is working as intended. While technology is great for reaching new people, we all get frustrated when it doesn’t work as intended!
In the end, science communication can be a difficult process. If you aren’t connecting to your audience as intended, try not to get discouraged. Be flexible in your process and try connecting with new people.