About the Course
ENGAGE is a brand new, customized professional development course, that in 10 contact hours resets scientists’ approach to public engagement. This intervention combines both theory and practice to build foundational knowledge in the science of science communication—tapping into logic, emotions, awe, risk, and sensemaking—while emphasizing self-authorship and reflexive practice. Bringing in expertise from the social sciences and lived experience, it will challenge pre-existing attitudes, norms, and assumptions to help scientists become more effective and strategic as they grow into science communication practitioners.
Watch This Space:
Week 1: Foundations & Motivations
What We Covered:
This hour set us up for clarity on why any of us are doing this work at all. We set a lot of expectations for this course - who we are as a group, how this hour works & why I designed the whole course the way I have, where to find everything, and again, above all, why we’re doing it this way.
The new conceptual piece is about strategy - why tactics flow from objectives, instead of standing alone. I introduced Besley & Dudo’s strategic communication framework as a launching place.
It can be incredibly appealing to just “skip to the good part”, but one of the key takeaways for ENGAGE is that we need to slow down and examine all the assumptions we’re making about science communication and public engagement.
I did a few very deliberate things in this hour:
I made and showed charts of the entrance survey responses and narrated how this cohort maps onto my expectations (and where they upend it!). I wanted to help each participant orient to where they land in the mix of experiences and perspectives that comprise this particular group. I also wanted to show that whenever I ask participants for something, it’s for a specific reason, and I use those responses in the course. Finally, I wanted to flex some design muscles to show how (admittedly extremely simple) dataviz can be coherent with a brand, instead of looking like an ugly excel default.
I traced a partial history of my own career. In part, I used these beats to establish my bonafides and emphasize the real-world expertise I bring to the table. It also helps (I hope) participants understand how to process my advice and perspective. It should be clear, for example, my media experience has been focused on elite outlets rather than… AM radio, for example. My policymaking experience was at the level of international conferences of parties, which is a very different thing than being in the trenches of a local school board meeting. Finally, I wanted to legitimize any skeptical or uneasy feelings folks may have around comms by showing my own distaste for storytelling before I plunged into that world. I like normalizing and embracing criticisms before they are voiced, because I do have complicated feelings and I do think hesitation is a very reasonable response!
Finally, I introduced a framework. I find it hard to have big sprawling conversations without some kind of shared touchstone. I use Besley & Dudo’s book, Strategic Science Communication as the starting place.
How it Went: