The ability to properly communicate is a highly useful and highly utilized scientific skill. Indeed, it is commonly accepted that improving communication skills will benefit scientists in every facet of their career, strengthening their presentations, sharpening their grant-writing abilities and improving their teaching. However, motivation for scientists to become better public communicators is small, given the lack of professional recognition for outreach and informal education.
Unfortunately, formal and informal opportunities for scientists to practice and improve their communication skills are under-publicized and under-utilized, rendering the majority scientists poor communicators. Even in supposedly comfortable conditions such as research conferences, scientists often subject their audiences to torturous presentations that fail to effectively grab their attention, with only the importance of the subject matter keeping audience members engaged. The failure to properly communicate extends beyond the ivory tower, with a large communication gap existing between scientists and the general public; when asked by a recent survey to identify the main source of scientific miscommunication, scientists blamed both their own poor communication skills and their audience’s inattention (Ecklund et al, 2012).
In response, the Public Outreach Committee will aim to provide the following types of opportunities for scientists looking to develop their communication skills:
1. Provide formal communications training for scientists
2. Work with organizations to provide training platforms for scientists to improve their communication skills
3. Work to incorporate communication endeavors into formal scientific activities