Our first seminar to train grad students to communicate science and risk beyond academia (#TOX607) ) is coming to an end. Next week is our very last class. This multidisciplinary seminar included 48 grad students from 14 different departments.

The students gained knowledge in key areas that are mostly overlooked in graduate programs.

  • Describing research in plain language
  • Using tools in Microsoft Word to assess for readability and grade level.
  • Distilling the message and bottom line of your research
  • Re-framing questions about safety using the risk framework
  • Utilizing active listening techniques and the importance of listening
  • Writing for the web
  • Understanding the role and importance of social media tools and platforms to communication science

Today students got a taste of Twitter, and here is a story about it.

NIEHS-funded Centers are experimenting and beginning to leverage social media platforms to promote research and activities, expand networks and partnerships, improve relationships with stakeholders, and foster community engagement.  [Here is a list of individuals and groups tied to NIEHS on Twitter.]the-perfect-length-of-a-tweet-is-70-110-characters-150x150

We’ve come a long way in the last couple of years.

The OSU Superfund Research Center began social media efforts on Facebook and Twitter in August of 2011.  In November of 2011, Naomi Hirsch, Research Translation Coordinator, headed to the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting and Expo to facilitate a roundtable discussion on how our Centers’ can harness web technologies and social media. The discussions led to a desire to gather resources, case studies, and articles that would help move our scientists and social media efforts forward.  The Web and Emerging Tech Resources for Scientists and Partners page began.

2012 was a year of internal education as we grew our network and supported our colleagues at other NIEHS Centers.  We facilitated a web and social media session at the NIEHS PEPH Meeting in March, presented an NIEHS SRP CEC/RTC webinar in July, and later that year, a social media overview presentation for administrators at the SRP Annual Meeting in October.

The momentum increased in 2013.  We led a movement at Oregon State University by supporting a ScienceOnline Watch Party, which led to a new group, the OSU Science Communicators. The Web and Emerging Tech Resources for Scientists and Partners page grew and was cited as an excellent starting place for scientists in blog articles and the Plos Biology paper: An Introduction to Social Media for Scientists.

We recently hosted and tweeted the 2013 International Symposium on Polycyclic Aromatic Compounds (#ISPAC13). Although 75 tweets came from just 10 people during the conference of about 150 total people, it was still worthwhile and brought exposure to PAHs, the organization, OSU, the research, and the individual researchers. It starts small, but it must start somewhere and become part of the culture.

Now the education is turning to grad students. We are excited to contribute to and co-instruct a Grad Seminar on Science and Risk Communication, which will include using social media tools.  In addition, at the end of the term in December, Naomi Hirsch will host a Twitter Basics webinar designed for scientists, grad students, and professionals communicating science.

There are now papers (and numerous articles) presenting a case for more scientists to engage with one another and the public through social media like Twitter. Several studies have shown that tweeting and blogging about scientific findings can increase their impact (“It’s Time for Scientists to Tweet“).

So, what is ahead for us in 2014? So much! Stay connected so you can find out.

From “It’s Time for Scientists to Tweet” [photo credit: www.katiephd.com]