Graduate Students Develop Communication Skills at First-of-its-Kind Workshop
Fifty-two graduate students from seven universities participated in the Louisiana SciComm Summit hosted by Louisiana Sea Grant (LSG) and the LSU Center for Collaborative Knowledge this spring at Louisiana State University’s (LSU) Baton Rouge campus.
The free, two-day science communication event—organized by graduate students, for graduate students—was designed to enhance research communication skills. It consisted of a series of panels, engaging speakers, concurrent breakout sessions and working groups. “The catalyst for the workshop was a need expressed by many graduate students,” said Dani DiIullo, LSG education and engagement director. “While graduate students learn to communicate to other scientists, they often don’t receive training on how to communicate with the public. Many have expressed a desire to get better at this, and we wanted to help them in this pursuit.”
The Louisiana SciComm Summit is the culmination of a years-long groundswell movement. What began with a handful of Louisiana graduate students grew into a state-wide conference. While science communication is often a subject mentioned at academic conferences, it is seldom the focal point. Given the multitude of digital platforms and a greater interest in outreach from funding agencies, students are eager to learn more about how to engage the public in their research.
“SciComm helps develop and practice strategies for communicating their research in a clear, concise manner. The topics and speakers were all identified by the graduate student planning committee and included sessions on data visualization, storytelling, science art and social media. The planning committee was really the engine behind this effort, we just helped them get going,” DiIullo added.
The first summit was in 2020 and was intended to be an in-person event. “But then COVID-19 hit, and we had to pivot and retool it into a virtual event,” said DiIullo. “I’m so proud we were able to hold SciComm in-person this year. And I am so appreciative of all the graduate students, Louisiana Sea Grant staff and communications specialists who made it happen.”
Students attending this year’s SciComm Summit came from LSU, McNeese State, Nicholls State, Southern University, Tulane University, University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the University of New Orleans. For more information on SciComm, visit www.laseagrant.org/outreach/ladia/lascicomm.