Curriculum for Science Communicators at Insanitek
Insanitek apprenticeship method: Delve deeper into something you are passionate about while also fulfilling a need of business (and society) while building several skills you can take with you into many areas of life.
Business Goals: Digital outreach ─ social media, blog, video. Offline outreach ─ workshop, demonstration
Society Service: Better understanding and literacy for science. Maybe someone will find a new idea or a kid will find a new passion because of your work! Or, maybe they will find life just a bit less boring and a lot more fun. 😉
Key skill focuses:
** There are no straight up degrees for science communication. Instead there are two paths to take to it: journalism or public relations. Insanitek combines these paths ─ and adds a dash of influence ─ to create a hybrid programme for our students.
Research the background and theories behind parts of science
Learn elements of writing a good piece ─ both fiction and nonfiction
Understand what makes communication effective
Master communication in the digital realm as well as in person
Facilitate dialogue/debate, popularization and/or contextualization of scientific issues
2 – 3 types of projects that the students can practise elements of science communication that allows for plenty of creative thinking to communicate science topics into both written and video.
In the beginning the student will focus on sharpening communication skills. This includes listening, asking questions, note taking, and presentation. The focus here is to see where strengths and weaknesses lie and give feedback on what needs work and working on it.
In the middle, the student will explore two approaches to science writing: researching the topic then summarising it for a general audience and interviewing an expert. These two methods are common ways in which science information is obtained by a communicator, then disseminated amongst news sources. Yet, there is a fine line between being too sciency and not being sciency enough for your audience. That’s where the trick lies.
In the end, they will apply the things they have learnt to creating a full article complete with their own research and expert interviews. They will also be able to stretch their skills further by working with a researcher to develop their research into an infographic poster and/or video.
A good science communicator knows how to ask questions to get the full story, listen, and summarise concepts for their target audience. They also know how to be accurate while doing that. So this section is focused on being able to ask, listen, take notes, and research concepts so the whole process goes smoothly and the results are impeccable.
- Find your style and voice while interviewing a researcher.
- Develop swipe files for questions, topics of interest, and background of knowledge.
- Learn how to read the researcher for the messages they want to tell the audience.
- Learn how to read the audience so you can keep their attention.
Insanitek will work with the students to develop a line of questioning and influence techniques for each project the student works on. This will be a student led session because they need to feel comfortable with being in charge of the process that will enable the designer to do the work. We will role play with the student (sans dressing up for the part) to bring about different “personalities” for the pieces in question and types of customers they may encounter.
~1-2 weeks, refining will come with practice in later sections.
No one expects you to be an expert out of the box ─ unless you have a PhD in a very specific and narrow topic. But you don’t, so people will assume you can’t possibly keep up. You might not get the information you are looking for. Thus, this section is going to be about buffing your knowledge skills so you can ask great questions ─ even if you don’t know the topic at hand.
The goal for the communicator is to be able to explore topics, practise getting a “quick grasp” of the concepts, and explain things to another. These pieces of work will be evaluated by you with members of Insanitek to critique and analyse the message and how it is perceived.
Please note: We want a variety of tones and styles to keep the message delivery fresh and interesting. We will use them all and get feedback from our audience.
- Practise and refine questioning techniques that you started in section 1.
- Learn the background to 2 – 3 different topics and prepare various length presentations on them.
- Understand how the length and tone can change the message.
- Develop an understanding how perception can change for the viewers.
1 – 2 weeks per presentation?
Infographics and videos are fun ways to show the story of a science paper, not just tell it. For the final project you will choose an open access science paper, translate it to layman’s terms for a general audience, and add to it by interviewing the researchers on the background. You will take all this information and either turn it into an infographic or a video. It is your job to choose a paper that you find interesting, then choose a style and technique that you think will both tell and add to the science story. Make it come alive and have some fun with it!
- Practise and refine questioning techniques from part 1.
- Apply the a medium per topic, judge to see if the medium helps tell the story of the science.
- Show several people to get feedback and see if their impressions match what you were aiming for and still deliver the message.
- Get public feedback
Insanitek makes every effort to contact the scientist for an interview and to review the infographic and videos before it gets published. Unfortunately, the scientists don’t always reply. However, if they do, you should be able to get great feedback from them as well.
As Insanitek moves into the world of video, we are keeping videos simple. Think slides, overlays, how-tos, etc. We don’t have a big budget for graphics and special effects to add to these types of videos…. Yet.
A computer, a solitary office, or fancy software. Our company is currently virtual with colleagues all over the US. We are based out of our houses with our own computers.