Chaired by Drs. Sumira Phatak and Virunya Bhat, the session titled “Double Feature: Improving SciComm Skills through Creative Storytelling and Novel Presentation Delivery, Plus a GSLC Three Minute Thesis (3MT)” addressed and discussed improved methods for science communications to create key influencers that are advancing science and increasing the impact of toxicology.
#SciComm @ SOT
By virtue of its strategic plan and subsequent multi-year partnership with the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, SOT has a strong commitment to boost science communication skills among the SOT membership. This will help bridge the gap of misinformation that plagues modern society as we transition into a post-COVID era. Dr. Bhat encouraged interested attendees to apply for the SOT Science Communications Training Award and also highlighted the InTOXicating Science Talks, a program in which SOT members share their research through storytelling.
The approach that scientists use to communicate effectively with reporters also can help them disseminate information and maintain the intended message via other platforms, including on social media. Jennifer Loukissas from the National Cancer Institute reviewed best practices, skills, and tips for giving a good interview and interacting with journalists. Ms. Loukissas also gave an overview of the social media landscape, in particular Twitter, with suggestions for beginners on how to build followers and maximize your professional presence. She highlighted a recent special issue of Science that was dedicated to how researchers can fight disinformation by using social media to share findings with the public. She also frequently referenced Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (ISBN: 978-1400064281), a book about what makes concepts memorable.
Translating science into different media formats is a great way to capitalize on your talents to get your message into a public forum. Dr. David Faulker described his experience as a YouTuber on Risk Bites and Experiments in Science Education, blogger for Mind the Science Gap and Use Your Brain for Science, and podcaster as the co-host of the SOT podcast, Adverse Reactions. He shared behind-the-scenes info on the art of sharing contemporary science issues. The main take-away message from his talk was to “know thy audience” in relation to selecting your medium and leveraging collaborations as you craft your message to achieve your predetermined science communication goals.
A practical beginner’s guide to creating beautiful, professional figures and incorporating user-friendly tools for publications or presentations was presented by graphic design expert Shiz Aoki. Ms. Aoki described her journey as a graduate of Johns Hopkins’ Medical Illustration Program and National Geographic’s Lead Medical Illustrator to a graphic design artist that inspires other scientists to make their own illustrations quickly and consistently using interdisciplinary collaborations of the arts and sciences. Her design tips can be summarized as (1) composition simplification, (2) color use, (3) appropriate labeling, (4) alignment consistency, and (5) uniform imagery. For example, consider contrast in relation to color blindness, focus in terms of opacity or cropping, and intentional design for optimal storytelling. An effective graphical abstract is worth 1,000 words!
3MT @ SOT
Three-minute thesis (3MT) is a contest that encourages participants to look at their projects in a new light and bring focus to critical findings in compelling and creative ways—all within a 180-second time constraint. To put things into perspective, an average 80,000-word thesis would take nine hours to orate. Emeritus Professor Alan Lawson invented 3MT to challenge students to effectively explain their research in plain language and appropriately for a non-specialist audience. This phenomenon has since grown into a globally recognized competition held annually by 1,000+ institutions across more than 90 countries. The first ever SOT 3MT competition was a huge success, and winners were featured in a follow up webinar “Meet the Winners of SOT’s 2021 3MT.” Sumira Phatak highlighted past science communication projects, including the “Presentations with a Twist: A Poster 2.0 // Virtual // 3MT Cocktail” webinar. Then, the SOT 2022 3MT winners were announced, and their videos were played live.
In summary, attendees were furnished with strategies on how to maximize personal strengths by effectively distilling and communicating interdisciplinary and complex science for any audience, including technical conferences, general introductions, and professional interviews. These activities also provide a mechanism for toxicologists to escape the ivory tower and break down barriers that prevent the public from understanding or relating to scientific facts. Key takeaways include “enthusiasm is always contagious,” and as with everything else, “repetition builds mastery.”
A recorded version of this session is available to 2022 Annual Meeting registrants until July 31, 2022, through the 2022 SOT Event App and Online Planner.