Science communication training

Every summer, the John Innes Centre invites a group of undergraduate students to take part in an eight week summer school. Every Friday afternoon during the summer school, the undergraduates receive training by PhD students at the institute. In 2015, as the science communication officer on the PhD Student Voice, I organised a science communication training session with three of my fellow PhD students.

We started the session by giving an overview of what science communication involves. The four of us had experience of different types of communication: one had worked with school students as part of the Brilliant Club; another had mentored undergraduate students for an international competition; a third had taken part in a wide range of outreach events; and I had experience writing blogs, using social media and volunteering at science fairs. We could draw on each other’s backgrounds to give a good overview of the opportunities available to early career scientits.

Each of the students then had a go at describing their research projects in different ways, for different audiences. They were each encouraged to condense a description of their research into a tweet. We then divided the students into groups to try presenting their research to a non-scientific audience, and to think about how to explain complex ideas without jargon.

The main activity was for the students, in three groups, to produce five-minute videos on a theme chosen from a selection we had prepared. We discussed how to structure a story, what information to include and how to make a video engaging. Each group got a camera and editing software so they could make their videos over the following week.

All three of the videos produced were of exceptional quality, with each one showing great planning, team work and humour. Here is the video one group produced on carnivorous plants:

Organising and delivering these sessions was a great experience, and a good exercise in planning, communicating and working in a team. We all enjoyed delivering the session and seeing the creative output of the students’ work.