915   Roundtable discussion

Training for the future: Teaching science communication and new media

How do we train new science communicators to work in a rapidly shifting digital landscape?

Scientists and science communicators are increasingly reliant on social and new media in their work, which presents both benefits and challenges for engaging with others.

While success stories can be easy to see, designing an environment where each student comes away with experience and enthusiasm is difficult when starting up against big publishers, paid sponsorships, and algorithmic content controls. Such issues also compound differently across the globe. Technological advances and digital freedoms  vary dramatically from country to country, and data privacy initiatives such as in the EU show the difficulty of standardisation across digital and political borders. Our teaching, too, may not translate as universally as we assume.   

How can we best prepare new science communicators? Can we embed optimism and ethical perspectives when working in such spaces — now, and into the future? 

This panel brings together international experience in teaching, research and practice in new media to speak on broad issues across learning foundational digital skills, building trust online, and how communities engage and disengage under changing technological regulations and restrictions.  

The panel is chaired by Samantha Vilkins, lecturer for the undergraduate and postgraduate course Science Communication and the Web at the Australian National University. She is joined by Professor and Chair of Life Sciences Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Dominique Brossard, Professor Sarah Mojarad from the University of Southern California, Digital Society Fellow at The University of Reading Dr Erinma Ochu, and Kim Trollip of the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa.

Join us as we discuss not only what skills are required today, but how we can prepare students to think big with future media, and how our training needs to adapt.

Author: Samantha Vilkins
Australian National University, Australia

Speaker: Dominique Brossard
University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States

Professor Dominique Brossard is Professor and Chair of Life Sciences Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which offers multiple science communication courses across undergraduate and postgraduate programs. A prolific researcher across science and media, she co-wrote a chapter on science engagement and social media for Theory and Best Practices in Science Communication Training, published by Routledge in 2019. As communication technologies evolve, science news has often been the first cut from legacy media, forcing scientists and science communicators to embrace social media. While some elements of best practice are easily translated, there are idiosyncrasies from platform to platform, and cross-cutting issues of establishing credibility and reducing perceived bias. Drawing on her extensive research, Professor Brossard will discuss generational perspectives on social and new media, how trust and identity play out online, and how research and training can both help inform best practice on social media and strengthen future science communication.

Speaker: Erinma Ochu
The University of Reading, United Kingdom

Based at The University of Reading, Dr Erinma Ochu is a Digital Society Fellow supported by Wellcome and a NERC-UKRI grant focused on building communities of practice around environmental concerns through citizen science, community organising and digital storytelling.. The digital scientific revolution - big data, sensing technologies, spatial computing, artificial intelligence - is advancing through science's ties with industry and technology, presented as Industry 4.0. This discussion focuses on where and how the public are critically engaged, and the role of science communication teaching and practice in fostering public leadership to steward the distribution, ownership and sharing of digital literacies emerging from the new era that Industry 4.0 will create and that publics will be expected to consume. Offering insights from creating and participating in online communities of practice during the Trump-Brexit era, Erinma shares examples of reflective creative future media and digital practice that explores how we live together as part of the digital society.

Speaker: Sarah Mojarad
University of Southern California, United States

Professor Sarah Mojarad is a lecturer at the University of Southern California with joint faculty appointments in Viterbi School of Engineering and Keck School of Medicine. She created and teaches the course Social Media for Scientists and Engineers, and she also conducts social media and online professionalism workshops for medical and physician scientist students. In this session, she will describe the social media case study method she created and continues to use in higher education classrooms. Having given lectures around the world about her approach, she will discuss its applicability to universities across Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.

Speaker: Kim Trollip
Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa, South Africa

Kim Trollip is a freelance science writer and online content manager at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) of South Africa. She is currently a postgraduate online student in the MSc in Science Communication and Future Media at the University of Salford. Kim's science communication practice takes place through various public platforms including web portals, researcher-policy maker networks, social media, seminars, workshops, conferences, policy briefs, magazines and newsletters. Key research themes from her studies include science communication in developing countries, the research policy nexus and gender dynamics. In this session, Kim offers a critical reflection on the planning of a citizen humanities project to crowdsource and share stories and poems from the liberation movement. This will introduce and reflect on the ethics for science communication, social media and school level curriculum development within the South African context and specifically engaging across generations to address racism and xenophobia. (Note, Kim will be presenting virtually, if possible.)

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