Speaking of Physics: The Art of Science Communication


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A presentation I did in April 2012 for the Preparing Future Physicists group at CU-Boulder. Discusses my career in science writing and education, and effective communication strategies.

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Speaking of Physics: The Art of Science Communication

  1. 1. Speaking of Physics...The Art of ScienceCommunicationStephanie Chasteenhttp://sciencegeekgirl.comImages: Tom Tomorrow, Amy Snyder
  2. 2. Audio: David Kestenbaum & Marvin Marshak: Neutrinos
  3. 3. My points for today Communication is necessary in today’s careers We can’t treat our audience like they’restupid (but we can’t treat them like they’re physicists either) The data do not speak for themselves.
  4. 4. But first...who the heck am I anyway?
  5. 5. Finding the warm spot
  6. 6. My non-linear path Postdoc at PhD in Physics science museumBA in Social teacher educationPsychology Postdoc in physics education researchPeace Corps freelance writing NPR intern independent business
  7. 7. My non-linear path Postdoc at PhD in Physics science museum teacher prepBA in Social teacher educationPsychology science education & pedigree ed.PC picture research communicationPeace Corps & writing Postdoc in physics education research Peace Corps freelance writing NPR intern independent business
  8. 8. The career messages... • There are great jobs in education, outreach, and writing and communication is univerally important. • Specialization can be great; but diversification can be great too. We need synthesizers in this multidisciplinary world. • You aren’t the prisoner of initial steps towards a career choice. You don’t always need to know where you’re going; find the warm spotmy blog has a recent post about my non-linear career path http://sciencegeekgirl.com
  9. 9. We need to communicate with many audiences • Our students • Other academics (across disciplines) • The public • The media Image from: shirray-langley.abbozzogallery.com/
  10. 10. the media is powerfulImage by Tomasz Sienicki
  11. 11. Changing view of science communicationscientific literacy (1960-1980’s) let’s educate that ignorant public media & public scientists
  12. 12. the deficit model science “The deficit model assumes that the public are empty vessels waiting to be filled with useful information upon which they will rationally act.” Nerlich, Koteyko, and Brown, “Theory and language of climate change communication,” Wiley Interdisciplinary reviews, 1, 2010.
  13. 13. The current modelscience & society (present) we have the attitude problem media & public scientists image victorvoigt
  14. 14. How do you get your message across?What are some techniques that haveworked for you when...★ Talking to the public?★ Teaching your students?
  15. 15. 3keep it know your keysimple audience points metaphors,make it Communication analogy,relevant tips examples build no tell a fromjargon story familiar
  16. 16. Don’t be so cerebral
  17. 17. find the story Audio: David Kestenbaum & Tony Leggett: SuperconductivityAudio: Christopher Joyce and William Eberhard, A Spider’s Web Image: Luc Viatour, www.lucnix.be
  18. 18. find the story Audio: David Kestenbaum & Tony Leggett: SuperconductivityAudio: Christopher Joyce and William Eberhard, A Spider’s Web Image: Luc Viatour, www.lucnix.be
  19. 19. How do you tell your story? mo delscie ntist background supporting details (data) results & conclusions “the facts speak for themselves”
  20. 20. the deficit model does not work!
  21. 21. st m odel journali bottom line key details (data) back- groundWhat’s your No more than elevator 3 main points. speech?
  22. 22. What’s your bottom line?Consider: What is the main message, or“elevator speech” from:• Your work, or• A class period you recently attended
  23. 23. There’s more to life than accuracy “The reason you cant walk through a wall is that your atoms and the atoms in the wall interact with each other. They speak the same language”* * it’s more complicated than that understandability accuracy & interest
  24. 24. perception
  25. 25. expert knowledge what makes experts smart?Expert knowledge is organized around big ideas.Most people don’t have that framework. So start with the familiar, and build a map.
  26. 26. ground the explanation in the familiarstart here... and build up to... the tough stuff. walls & people... atoms & electric charge neutrinos and of course, avoid jargon
  27. 27. why should people care? Audio: David Kestenbaum & John Morgan: Poincare Conjecture Image: http://www.scottberkun.com/essays/essay29.htm
  28. 28. there is a time for telling but not too soon!image from http://www.seniorsworldchronicle.com/2009/08/usa-professors-john-baldwin-68-and.html
  29. 29. So, it is important to communicate well. But we don’t just need to repeat our message louder1. We need to decide what our messages are.2. We need to make our messages accessible.3. We need to motivate... THEN educate4. This is important - and possible - for all levels of physics (and in our classes!)
  30. 30. More resourceshttp://www.dontbesuchascientist.com/ http://www.ucsusa.org/publications/ scientist-media-guide.html http://communicatingscience.aaas.org/
  31. 31. Thank you!Notes and presentation will be posted at http://blog.sciencegeekgirl.com Podcast @ http://perusersguide.org/podcasts How does this work? Maybe some physicist can tell us, using simple language and familiar metaphors? Yeah, by telling us a concise interesting and entertaining story full of substance!