Clear and effective communication is at the heart of impactful science. The following resources are a starting point for sharpening science communication — whether it’s aimed at peers or the public. The initial focus on communication training for Knight Campus supported activities has been on developing stronger storytelling skills with an emphasis on better presentations. Stakeholders around campus have also identified writing as a key skill in need of development, so a few key writing resources appear as well.
Story Tools: ABT and Randy Olson
Randy Olson, who visited the UO in October 2018, has a very powerful and simple tool for adding interest to almost any piece of writing or presentation. Named for the and, but, therefore prompt he uses to add tension to a potential story, ABT has applications in traditional academic writing, public presentations and public communication. Watch Olson's TEDmed talk, or read his blog, Science Needs Story.
He also has three books:
- Houston, We Have a Narrative introduces ABT and develops the ideas that have become Olson's training program, called Story Circles.
- Don't Be Such a Scientist is a call for scientists to develop their storytelling skills in the service of better communication with peers and the public.
- Connection: Hollywood Storytelling Meets Critical Thinking merges improv expertise with story consulting and the critical thinking of a scientist to bring powerful tools to effective communication.
Presentation Tools: Assertion Evidence
The assertion evidence approach to presentations asks presenters to leave bullet points behind, and instead use simple slides with short assertions (no more than two lines long), backed up with or connected to visual evidence. From there, the presenter must interact with the audience to describe and explain the deeper meanings and context around the assertion and the visual evidence. For more information on the AE approach, this website goes into more depth and gives examples of effective slides.
Harvard University's George Whitesides wrote a widely shared essay titled "Writing a Paper," addressing when to start and the structure of a paper (which informs the structure of the research itself). Watch his interview with the American Chemical Society for tips on effective writing.
In "How to Write a First-Class Paper" (Nature 2/28/18) six experts offer advice on producing a manuscript that will get published and pull in readers.
Thinking on Paper, by V. A. Howard and J. H. Barton, describes writing as a way of shaping thought and argues that the process of writing should be part of the process of thinking.
The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr., and E. B. White, is not specific to science but is a great, short primer on clear writing.