Effective communication is a skill increasingly recognized to be critical to success in scientific research, interactions, and broader impacts. UNAVCO joined the Portal to the Public Network (PoPNet) in March of 2016 to offer improved communication skills to our scientific community, starting in summer 2016 with a cohort of graduate students. Portal to the Public is a system of professional development tools designed to better connect scientists and the public in positive dialogue, in informal education settings such as museums. PoPNet is the network of museums and other institutions implementing PoP training. While museums bring scientists in to learn about and practice science communication, UNAVCO is positioned to train our international community of geoscientists who can then practice their skills locally. These skills are useful in communicating science not only to the public, but also to policy makers, funders, and anyone outside the immediate scientific discipline. Developing communications skills also encourages the practitioners to think more holistically about their research and its impacts.
In the summer of 2016, we offered a seven-week workshop to the interns in our UNAVCO Student Internship Program (USIP). Interns spent two hours per week working on communication skills through hands-on activities and discussions, and developed a tabletop activity based on their research. The program culminated in an outreach event in Boulder where the students used their tabletop activities to engage with the public.
The goal of UNAVCO’s implementation of the PoP program has been to arm graduate students with marketable skills and to start building the next generation of scientist as effective communicators. These will be the researchers who will make a stronger impact due to the combined strength of their research capabilities and their ability to relate their work to a broad audience, from future scientists to current policy makers and, perhaps most importantly, to future policy makers.