The workshop features science communication experts at UBC

Science blogging, illustration and journalism had their moments at a science communication workshop hosted by the Behavioral Neuroscience Workshop team on Friday 8 July.

The event was initiated by neuroscience graduate student Alyssa Ash as part of a professional development series. The workshop introduced researchers to different ways of using science communication to their advantage.

In the first lecture, Associate Professor of Psychology Dr. Jason Snyder shared his experience as a pioneer in his field and an active blogger. According to Snyder, blogs offer “an informal way to share thoughts[s] with more personality than the typical academic record.

Snyder’s blog not only demonstrates the effective use of a blog to share new research, but also highlights the academic value of sharing resources. A collage of numbers on his blog summarizes a complex research question with ease, providing a quick visual summary of data from multiple credible sources. An informal bibliography compiled by Snyder on his blog is another useful resource that has even been formally cited in an academic paper.

Platforms like FigShare offer students and researchers a way to communicate their work to a wider academic audience, according to Snyder. He recommended this resource to students as a reliable platform for citation of resumes and another opportunity for citation in academic journals.

The “aesthetic” side of science communication was highlighted in the second talk of the workshop, with the participation of science illustrator and communications coordinator in the Department of Zoology, Dr. Silvia Heredia. For Heredia, images are an essential tool for communicating “great” ideas.

“Science is getting more complicated. For me, to understand it, I have to see it,” she said.

Heredia’s illustrations bring to life the science he aims to convey. From lab logos to visual summaries, Heredia’s contributions to the zoology department demonstrate the effective use of images to explain technical methods, processes, and research questions.

Heredia’s successful career in scientific illustration post-doctorate in ecology and plant science and a certificate from a scientific illustration program offers artistic STEM students a way to bring their passions together.

The final speaker, Vanessa Hrvatin, a science communication specialist and former communications coordinator at the Djavad Mowafaghian Center for Brain Health, touched on the tortuous journey to finding your chosen career.

After earning a bachelor of science with honors from Queen’s University, Hrvatin knew she enjoyed journal clubs and liked talking about science, but didn’t like spending long hours in the lab. This led her to an impressive career in science journalism, with her portfolio including publications in Macleans’, The National Post and The Globe and Mail.

Croatian’s best advice for budding science communicators centers on two things: eliminating jargon and using analogies. Drawing on his own experience, Hrvatin demonstrates how a complex and lengthy explanation by a researcher can be effectively reduced to a simple analogy.

“Good science communication takes time, but it’s worth the investment,” Horvatin said. For interested students, she recommended pitching story ideas to the media, networking and practicing writing skills in their spare time. Students with lab connections can even gain useful communication experience by taking control of their lab’s social media and website.

To close the workshop, Asch highlighted ways for neuroscience enthusiasts to get involved in science communication. The Brainiac blog, Neuropsyched, Neuroscience Through the Ages, and Brain Bytes are all run by students in the neuroscience program.

For researchers and students alike, the workshop outlined science communication as a means of sharing a passion for science outside of the traditional academic setting.

“I wanted to share all my thoughts, and a newspaper every four years wasn’t going to cut it,” Snyder said. “We all want to share the things we love.”

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