Communicating Science to the Public Effectively (ASTR 599/BH 597)


2 credits



Schedule: M 2:30-5:20

Department: Cross-Listed

Quarter: Fall

This course is designed to help graduate students create an engaging 30-minute public talk that they will present during the following quarter in our “Engage: The Science Speaker Series.”

Instructors: Shawn Domagal-Goldman, Phil Rosenfield, Eric Hilton

Class will be divided up into two 80-minute sections on Mondays from 2:30-5:20. The first section will be structured lessons and the second section (not always used) will be reserved for group work and guest speakers.

Students will be required to attend the first section of each week. They will develop several analogies to distill their research to the public, produce an animation or visualization of their research, and create a variety of concise research promoting statements. The final project is a 30-minute public talk they will be invited to deliver during the winter quarter’s “Engage: The Science Speaker Series.”

Credit/No credit grading will be based on:
70% participation
30% final project
Introduction/Orientation (1 session)

Communication Theory (2 sessions) – story-telling in science, ways of connecting with the public, substance and style in public engagement
Distilling their research (3 sessions)
– identifying storylines and anecdotes in research, how to tell a story, what is important, what is interesting, and lessons on creating animations/visualizations
Preparing and practicing public talks (3 sessions) – interdisciplinary group work and peer critique on analogies made, visualizations used, and practice speaking to the group
Final presentations (1 session)
Weekly activities:
* Improvisation, acting games and lessons
* Weekly readings and discussions
* One-minute research summaries
* Guest speakers science
communicators – examples drawn from TV and lecturers – guest appearances by UW professors
* Story telling practice (rotating each student)

The Organizers
Phil Rosenfield, Astronomy
Eric Hilton, Astronomy
Cliff Johnson, Astronomy
Rachel Mitchel, College of Forestry Resources
Dr. Shawn Domagal-Goldman, Astronomy

Special Thanks
The Forum on Science Ethics and Society
The University of Washington Department of Astronomy
The Graduate and Professional Student Senate