853   Roundtable discussion

A Foundation, not an afterthought: diversifying training models to transform science communication education worldwide

Undergraduates are no longer only consumers, but producers of scientific information and are eager to gain skills in communicating their scientific discoveries. Employees and postgraduate programs are showing an increasing interest in undergraduates with advanced communication and similarly transferable interpersonal skills. These needs have transformed the higher education curricula as science communication education is no longer reduced to a postgraduate afterthought, but is rather a foundation of undergraduate science education. Science communication training can help students understand the scientific process, become science-literate, identify the role of research and innovation in their socio-political contexts, and shape their interdisciplinary views.

This diverse international panel is bringing education professionals together to discuss how science communication has been transforming education all over the world. The panelists will showcase examples from the University of Otago in NZ, Rhine-Waal University in Germany, the Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at the Australian National University, and Cornell University in the USA, and identify the pros and cons of embedded, stand-alone, workshop-style, interdisciplinary and other ways of teaching science communication at the undergraduate level. Results from a comprehensive empirical study on science communication degree programs will be also presented, and the audience will have the opportunity to discuss how to transform higher education effectively and systematically so we can respond to the need for well-trained science communicators early in their academic careers. The conversations will be led by two co-chairs: a science communication practitioner and a well-known science communication scholar, and this panel will offer a unique opportunity to bring perspectives together from multiple continents.

Author: Mark Sarvary
Cornell University, United States

Undergraduate education is transforming in the United States, driven by students' increasing interest in conducting research in STEM fields. As undergraduates are no longer just consumers but producers of scientific information, learning the scientific process is now part of the undergraduate curricula. Science communication has to be recognized as the last step of the scientific process and become a natural component of undergraduate STEM education. At Cornell University this transformation is organized bottom-up as courses embed science communication training into their curricula, and instructors are designing new, stand-alone science communication classes and activities. In the meantime, there is a top-down, institutional effort to create community-engagement opportunities for undergraduates. To bring these efforts under one umbrella, I spearheaded an inter-college Science Communication minor that launched this year, with the hope that it will fundamentally change how we look at science communication education in the USA.

Speaker: Merryn McKinnon
Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, Australian National University, Australia

Communication is often a postgraduate 'afterthought' as, anecdotally, for many students the relevance of science communication skills are often seen only once in the workplace. In Australia, there is growing recognition from employers that graduates from bachelor degrees often lack communication and interpersonal skills. This is not just STEM discipline-specific, it speaks to broader systemic issues at an undergraduate education level. There appears to be increasing interest in workshops and competitions to hone science communication skills in PhD students, but what if this 'upskilling' was started earlier? If science communication courses were integrated into science, engineering, technology and mathematics degrees, it could change the way future researchers, scientists, and policymakers approach their work and interactions with various publics. This discussion will draw upon examples of consultancy and public engagement projects used as assessment tasks for undergraduates in Australia and the United Arab Emirates to outline the potential impacts.

Speaker: Alexander Gerber
Rhine-Waal University, Germany and Institute for Science & Innovation Communication (inscico), Germany

A pledge for diverse training models: trade-offs between post- and undergrad, on- and offline, mono- and interdisciplinary. There are pros & cons for each of the approaches to teach & train science communication, whether postgraduate or undergraduate, stand-alone or interdisciplinary, consecutive or as Continuing Professional Development, campus-based or blended, mono- and interdisciplinary. Any decision of a university for one of these models comes with multiple trade-offs, which I will argue the institutions are only partly aware of strategically, and even more problematically the potential learners not at all. This raises fundamental issues of learning goals and employability, curricular standardization and certification, cultural sustainability and social inclusion, which are under-researched, under-discussed, and under-addressed by the international PCST community. My team and I are going to publish prior to PCST Aberdeen an empirical study of science communication degree programmes worldwide, including a content analysis of hundreds of module descriptions in numerous languages.

Speaker: Fabien Medvecky
University of Otago, New Zealand

How do our teaching practices transform and create our students' worldviews? As teachers of science communication, the 'how', 'what', and 'why' of science communication that we teach shapes the students' image of the role of science in society, of what it means to communicate, as well as shaping their view of the power relations between and across disciplines. I'd like to reflect on how the content that we teach creates and imagines a specific world with a specific place for science. This is especially important when teaching undergraduates who are often not-yet-specialised, and, intellectually speaking, still finding their epistemic feet. I will draw on my experience of developing and teaching an undergraduate minor over the past three years as a path to reflection, and invite my co-panelists to likewise reflect on what their teaching imagines and creates as "science", as society, and as "good" communicative practice.

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