“If I understood you, would I have this look on my face?” asks Alan Alda, the actor and science enthusiast in his latest (and eponymous) book. If you’re a scientist, you may have seen that baffled expression while trying to explain your research in terms you thought were straightforward and engaging.
Expert voices, however, are needed more than ever in conversations of national and global importance. Scientists can help people understand the many ways science shapes our lives and our understanding of the world—and, critically, their evidence-based findings and perspective can help in creating sound, scientifically informed public policy.
We’d like to help more scientists share their expertise with the public. Researchers can apply to take an online course on writing blogs and op-eds for magazines, newspapers and other news outlets from the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, Scientific American and the Kavli Foundation. Science is a global enterprise, with an ambition—and ability—to address some of humanity’s most challenging problems. Scientific American, with more than 170 years of authoritative coverage about the progress of science, often authored by the researchers themselves, is delighted to partner with the Alda Center and Kavli on this initiative to support scientists and science communication.
“When we help scientists to be more open,” says Alda, who has a passion for teaching scientists how to communicate, “they begin to talk about their work in a deeply personal way. And people want to hear the personal stories behind the research.”
Open to everyone from postdocs to PIs, the course will explain the elements of blogging and op-ed writing—including which topics and angles make for compelling posts and how to produce clear, concise writing that conveys the knowledge and passion of scientists in diverse fields. The 10-week course includes live, interactive and Web-based instruction, as well as feedback on writing assignments by Alda Center instructors and Scientific American editors.
Successful assignments will be considered for publication by Scientific American, and the program will culminate with a special gathering in New York City in fall 2018, where course participants will network with instructors, science communication experts and peers as well as staff from the Alda Center, Scientific American and Kavli.