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Canadian Science Policy Centre | Panel 307 - Innovating Science Communication

Panel 307 - Innovating Science Communication

Conference Day: 
Day 1 - November 7th 2018
Takeaways and recommendations: 

Innovating Science Communications

Organized by: Pixels and Plans, Julia Krolik

Speakers: Dr. Chantal Barriault, Director of the Science Communication Program at Laurentian University ; Jonathan Provost, Environmental Scientist at Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada;

Catherine Lau, Program Evaluation Officer at Art the Science; Samantha Yammine , PhD Candidate in Neuroscience and Stem Cell Biology at the University of Toronto

Moderator/Speaker: Julia Krolik, Founder, Pixels and Plans & Art the Science

Takeaways and recommendations

  • Science communication is about transforming science knowledge in impactful ways to the intended audience.

  • Laurentian University is the only post-secondary institution in Canada with a Master’s program in science communication for science graduates. Its 150 alumni work in government, research institutions, NGOs, science centres, museums, zoos, aquaria, industry and academia.

    • Science North partnered with the program to contribute to the development of science communication professionals through practical and experiential learning opportunities.

    • The program equips graduates with theoretical foundations in good communication and develops their communication skills through writing, design, production and evaluation.

  • Art the Science is a nonprofit organization that facilitates artist residencies in science labs and helps artists create digital renditions of their work (e.g., an artist resident at Queen’s University used creative coding to depict silica grains and activate the spaces in between them.)

    • One key theme that the evaluation demonstrated was the new perspective the artist brought into the lab. The artist challenged lab members to think about how to communicate their research to a non-expert and shed light on different ways to visualize data.

    • Read about other themes that surfaced in the Phase I Science-Artist Residency Evaluation Report

  • Seek out scientists online and learn from them. It can democratize access to science and knowledge and amplify marginalized voices.

  • Science policy leaders and scientists often exclude the taxpayer in their consultations. Social media, notably Instagram, is an effective platform for multi-directional communication. Instagram’s advantages include over 1 billion monthly active users, high engagement, and its appeal as a visual medium.

  • Visual communication is generally more engaging than textual, but this has been traditionally ignored in scientific communication, making it seem like an afterthought.

  • Incorporating creative strategy and design principles into scientific communication can help disseminate your research more effectively

  • Your intended audience needs to drive your communication strategy

  • It is a challenge in government to communicate science-based knowledge to the public. Messages tend to be tailored to a general audience, as opposed to a specific audience. Government approval of ongoing communications can make the process slow and more complicated.

  • Building relationships to ensure messages are accepted and understood can help bridge gaps. Tactics are secondary to the relationship.

  • Your partners, staff and audiences are people. You need to understand people to understand your business.

  • The focus on knowledge translation and communications should not be an afterthought. Build in communications at the beginning of the project.