Sharing your research, what it means, and why it’s important can help it go farther and can spark awareness and action. While training in science communication is the best way to improve your skills, there are a number of resources that can help you on the spot: when you’re about to engage with a particular audience or when you’re putting together a publication, course, or poster.
Don't go it alone
Many of CU’s schools, departments, centers and institutes have communicators who can help you get started.
Director of Communications
- BioFrontiers Institute
Director of Communications
- College of Arts & Sciences
Communications & External Relations Director
- College of Engineering & Applied Science
Director of Marketing and Communications
- Graduate School
Information & Outreach Director
- Institute of Behavioral Science
- Institute of Cognitive Science
Academic Program Director
- Marisa Seitz
Administrative Assistant II
- Intermountain Neuroimaging Consortium
Director of Operations
Director of Scientific Communications
Communications and Outreach Specialist
- Office for Outreach and Engagement
Sue Postema Scheeres
Senior Communications Specialist
- Office of Strategic Relations
Interim News Director
- Trent Knoss
Communicating with general audiences
- Share the news with your unit communicator ASAP! They can publicize your paper in their channels (such as web sites and social media) and coordinate on media coverage and campuswide communications channels with the CU news team in Strategic Relations.
- It is much more difficult to get news outlets interested in your piece after it’s been published, so it’s important to tell your communicator about it in advance.
- If you already have a relationship with a reporter, by all means reach out to them. But please touch base with your communicator or someone on the Strategic Relations media team before you do. They know the landscape—and probably the journalist—and can help get a story out to as many people as possible in a strategic way. If you wish, they can also share best practices for researchers talking with the media.
Gathering data while you’re out in the field is the perfect time to share the excitement of the research process. The easiest and best way to do this is to share photos.
- Use the highest resolution camera you have (the camera on your smart phone is just fine), and snap away! People love to see you (or your students or colleagues) actually doing the research. If you photograph an instrument, try to show someone using it. In an amazing landscape? Show work going on in the middle of it. Use objects or people in the frame for perspective and reference.
- Email a few choice shots to your unit’s communicator as soon as possible. They can send the photos through social media channels or add them to your unit’s web site.
- Use them on your own web site or profile as well, or add them to your blog or Instagram feed if you have one. If you use Twitter, make sure to tag your photo with #CUBoulder and your unit’s handle (i.e. @instaar).
Check out a 2016 report from the National Academies of Sciences (free PDF) that highlights the complexity of communicating about science effectively, especially when dealing with contentious issues, and proposes a research agenda to help science communicators and researchers identify effective methods. Most tellingly, the report shows that the commonly held idea of what audiences need from science communication—known as the “deficit model,” which focuses on simply conveying more information—is wrong.
Then spend some time with Don’t Be Such a Scientist, a web site (and book) by Randy Olson.
Kristopher B. Karnauskas in EOS, June 2016:
Communicating with scientific audiences
- Designing Conference Posters, by Colin Purrington
- How to make a scientific poster that people want to stop to look at (2 minute video)
Communicating about climate change
The controversy over climate change in the United States can make talking about your research seem harder than it should. Recent research from Climate Access can help you frame your communication in a way that avoids polarization and helps people connect with the substance of your work. Download the Climate Access report “The preparation frame: A guide to building understanding of climate impacts and engagement in solutions.” To delve further into this topic, see the excellent work by the following communication groups:
Climate Access is a professional network of climate communication practitioners, complete with easy to read summaries of the latest climate communication resources, online trainings and webinars, and communication tips and tools. A free membership allows users to access a large library of papers, videos, and member forums.
Climate Nexus is a strategic communications group dedicated to highlighting the wide-ranging impacts of climate change and clean energy solutions in the United States.
The George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication is a leading center for unbiased public engagement social science research on climate change communication.
The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication is a leading research center that investigates public climate change knowledge, attitudes, policy preferences, and behavior, and the underlying psychological, cultural, and political factors that influence them.
Climate Narrative is research-based messaging that forms a persuasive narrative triangle: the threat, the villain and the solution.
Climate Communication Science and Outreach is a collection of animations, narratives and photos that address three areas: Our Climate is Changing, How It Will Affect Us, and What We Can Do.
Applying for a grant
If you’re applying for a grant and need a public outreach/broader impacts partner, you’re in luck! CU-Boulder teems with potential partners who are experts at effective, interesting public engagement. Whether you’d like to connect kids, citizens, or governments with your science, they have the contacts and expertise to help you do it right. Check out some of our outreach partners.