It doesn’t matter if you are a PhD student or a high-schooler, an early-career researcher or a faculty member. If you are here, that means you know some pretty cool stuff and you want to start sharing this with others. And you found out that’s actually a thing, and people call it SciComm or Science Communication. So you googled “how to get started with SciComm”. And found out there’s a lot to learn, which is exciting, but also overwhelming. So where do you go from here?
Getting started with Science Communication (or improving your SciComm) is a broad question, and you are not going to find a one size fits all answer. It really does depend on what you want to communicate, who you want to communicate with, your strengths, and the areas you could improve.
Having said that… there are some things every new SciCommer needs to do and understand as they get started with Science Communication – and while you could get started without these things (after all, you can just post something on social media right now if you want to!), it will be hard to be heard if you don’t.
So, without further ado, here are my top 10 tips for people who are looking to get started with Science Communication.
- Read. A lot. – Rule of thumb: read, read, read and then read some more. Seek out people who are doing what you want to do, and read their work. So if you want to do SciComm on Instagram, start following some accounts. If you want to write for magazines, stop by a newsagent and buy some. If you want to start a podcast, subscribe to some. Get a feel for what people are already doing, and think about why it works, or how you would improve it.
- Learn to Ask Questions. – SciCommers are curious people. Ask questions about the world around you. Imagine what people would ask you about your latest project. Pretend you are interviewing an expert – what would you ask them?
- Learn to Answer Questions. – What is the most interesting way you can answer those questions? How can you make the data interesting? How can you get people excited to learn more with you?
- Brand yourself. – You already have a personal brand, even if you don’t know it! Understanding your personal brand will make a world of difference when you get started with Science Communication. So take the time to figure out your personal brand, what it says about you, what image it projects into the world. And if there’s something you don’t like about it, think about how you can change or reframe it.
- Understand your audience. – Who are you talking to? Who are you trying to reach with your SciComm? You’ve got to understand these people so you can serve them as well as you possibly can!
- Understand your strengths. – What are you good at? No, seriously. Are you a good writer? Are you a good photographer? Can you think of things to say on the fly, or do you prefer to script your presentations? Play to your strengths, and, at the same time, develop the areas you might be interested in, but you’re not as confident doing.
- Produce Content. A lot. – Practice makes perfect. You won’t get better unless you get started. You need 10 thousand hours to be good at something. That’s all the same advice! When you want to get started with Science Communication, produce the content you are interested in producing. Play with it. Try different variations. Try different formats. Find your own magic SciComm formula, apply it to different things, look at the results, adjust and try again.
- Get a mentor or a coach. – You don’t have to go at it on your own! Why do you have to reinvent the wheel? Find someone who can support your learning process, give you advice, review your work, or edit your work for you, and you can improve much faster!
- Dare to try new things. – Try a new platform or a new way to deliver information. Dare to try. Let yourself try for the sake of trying, and don’t worry if you’re not good at it on the first try! The important thing is to learn from the experience.
- Have fun – This is by far the most important tip I could give you. Science Communication is about being curious and learning. It’s about passing knowledge forward. Your audience wants you to make it interesting for them. If you are bored and not having fun, your audience will be able to tell, and they will become uninterested. So make sure you’re having fun!