Speaking of Physics… The Art of Science Communication

by Stephanie Chasteen on April 13, 2012

Yesterday I gave a short presentation to our graduate student group here at the University of Colorado, to discuss my background in science writing and education, and share some best-practices in communication and writing that they can use with the public, or with colleagues.  One thing that I often find when reading academic papers or hearing an academic talk is that the speakers haven’t thought carefully enough about what main points they want their audience to walk away with, or how they’re going to weave that narrative into a compelling story.  Paragraphs in papers lack transition sentences, and talks lack a driving motivation.  So, even if you don’t talk to the public about science, keeping these messages in mind for your academic career is also important.

My big points:

  • Communication is important.
  • We can’t treat our audience like they’re stupid (but we can’t treat them like they’re physicists either).
  • The data do NOT speak for themselves.

Here is the short handout for the talk.  Speaking of Physics-handout.pdf

And here are the slides.

And here are some relevant books. I particularly recommend Don’t Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style


Nin Andrews April 14, 2012 at 9:31 pm

I like your handout and I think your suggestions would apply to almost any topic, not just physics.

Stephanie Chasteen April 16, 2012 at 11:39 pm

Thanks, Nin! Yes, these are definitely general science communication messages, rather than physics-only. But I tend to give this talk to fellow physicists (and have a few nice physics and math examples from NPR that I play). THat’s the downside of viewing this presentation on SlideShare, is you can’t hear the fun NPR clips that I play. 🙁

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