Creating a community of science communicators at KAUST

By | March 13, 2017

On March 4, I did at TEDx talk here at KAUST which aimed to inspire scientists to communicate beyond their scientific ecosystems and engage with the general public. In the nine days since the event, I’ve had numerous people approach me to say they agreed with what I had to say and wanted to push forward with their own public communication efforts.

These discussions have surfaced many great ideas on how we can work together to build community and capacity around public communication of scientific information.  I wanted to share a few of those ideas here:

1. Participate in global science communication discussions

One of the key ways to stay at the forefront of innovation is to read, learn, and collaborate with others. I find that following and participating in the #scicomm hashtag on Twitter and Instagram helps curate relevant and timely information about this topic. It points me to relevant resources like news, events, and thought leaders in this space.

2. Create a science communication community at KAUST (or your university!)

It became apparent pretty quickly that there were untold numbers of people at my university who agreed with my sentiments that I had never even met before. There are dozens of science communicators at KAUST and, like me, many of them are not sitting inside our communication department. With that in mind, I recognized it would be important to create a space for these passionate individuals to connect and support eachother’s aims in a meaningful way.

My first step to building this supportive, collaborative environment has been to create a Whatsapp group for science communicators at KAUST. One of the earliest members said of this group, “I plan to use this platform to share KAUST and internal science and sci comms events, training opportunities and any golden nuggets I find along the way.”

I imagine that we will build some momentum there and collaborate on ways to build the community and support one another. Perhaps we will soon have regular offline meetups or create alternative online spaces for us to connect.

Feel free to email me if you’d like to join the scicomm at KAUST whatsapp group. I’m listed in Outlook. If you’re reading this from another university, I hope you’ll connect with me via Twitter or Instagram and begin to create your own scicomm community which is specific to your institution which can operate both on- and offline.

3. Provide training opportunities

I have had a lot of “how-to” questions in the days that have followed. Questions like: “Which channel should I use?” “How do I build a following via social media?” “How do I set up a blog/website at KAUST?” This is great, because it means that people heard my message and are now taking the next steps. I try to answer everyone’s questions, but I also believe there is a need for a more formal training program.

I hope that one of the activities that will come out of this momentum is to create opportunities for additional science communication training at KAUST. Perhaps we could have regular community-wide events like our SciCafe or Enrichment Programs have a one-off science communication theme or bring well-respected science communication training programs to KAUST. Or perhaps I should start training groups on the side?! I haven’t had momentum in this area yet, but perhaps by posting about it here, it will spark some action.

4. What else?

I shared a few ideas above on how we can begin building a science communication community at KAUST. Nearly every scientist I have ever met got into science because they wanted to make the world a better place. My aim of building this community is to enable their scientific efforts and discoveries to make a greater impact through engagement with the public. If you have any ideas on how we can make this happen – together – please share a comment below.