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Astronomers Mobilize Graduate Student Science Communicators

Wednesday, November 15, 2017 - 09:35

Since 2013, Cambridge, Massachusetts, has served as a meeting place for the most passionate and accomplished young science communicators from across the United States. Each June, 50 graduate students are selected from about a thousand applicants to attend the ComSciCon national workshop on leadership in science communication.

Organized and operated by volunteer teams of graduate students, the Communicating Science Conference (ComSciCon) programs have become premier professional development experiences for young scientists seeking to enhance their ability to communicate complex and technical concepts to broad and diverse audiences.

Thanks to sponsors like the AAS, graduate students attend ComSciCon national workshops free of charge and receive full financial support for their travel and accommodations.

While ComSciCon’s annual national workshop and our regional events nationwide are open to students in all fields of science, engineering, and related disciplines, ComSciCon has physics and astronomy in its DNA. ComSciCon’s founders were predominantly astronomy graduate students.

Graduate student attendees and organizers of the ComSciCon 2017 National Workshop.

Collaboration with Societies Like the AAS

With help from the American Institute of Physics’ Venture Partnership Fund, ComSciCon is now engaging with professional societies like the AAS to develop new programs tailored to their members in a variety of different physical sciences.

In 2018, our goal is to work with these societies to launch new ComSciCon events focused on their graduate student members. Student members of each participating society would be lead organizers of the events, with ComSciCon’s national leadership and the society staff providing the programming framework and support.

Additionally, we will collaborate to develop original training materials that capture essential elements of ComSciCon’s workshop programs to make these experiences available to larger numbers of members online.

Representatives from AAS, APS, ASA, AVS, OSA, and AIP gathered at AIP’s headquarters in Washington, DC, this past March to discuss these program elements, and we were proud to welcome these representatives to the 2017 ComSciCon National Workshop in June to observe the workshop and refine these program plans.

AAS Nova founding editor Susanna Kohler and Director of Membership Services Diane Frendak have represented the Society in this program.

Representatives from AIP and professional societies discuss science
communication at ComSciCon’s member society staff meeting in March 2017.

How to Get Involved

Many of the organizers of ComSciCon are also contributors to Astrobites, the graduate-student-authored reader’s digest for the astrophysical literature. Collaborations born at ComSciCon workshops have spawned several other "-bites" sites founded by graduate students in other fields, including particle physics, soft matter, and oceanography.

If you are a student or an educator looking to enhance your students’ preparedness to communicate science, don’t miss these opportunities:

This activity is funded in part by a grant from the Venture Partnership Fund, American Institute of Physics, One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD: www.aip.org.

Nathan E. Sanders
Astrobites
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