Science of SciComm: From scicomm learner to scicomm facilitator

Post by Michelle Mason

God bless the graduate students who have all the ambition to a million different projects but no time, energy, funding, or sanity left over to get them done.  Hi, I’m one of those graduate students. 

By the time I ran across a sci-comm class at UWyo, I was already done with my coursework and was supposed to be focusing on research.  However, I still needed to take several units, so when I saw the Art of Science Communication course offered by two awesome educators that I knew, I signed up instantly.  After that, I continued on with Visualizing Science and Creative Approaches to Science Writing.  Now, I’ve come nearly full circle by finishing the Science of Science Communication course.  This is a path I didn’t ever expect to take, but I feel that it has given me so many amazing skills that drastically separate me from my peers. 

So, in my never-ending quest to beef up my CV, I asked the instructor if there was a sci-comm certificate that I could get for taking so many courses on the matter.  Turns out, there wasn’t a program in place.  It also turns out that the project for this last class of mine is to design a sci-comm project.  What better sci-comm project is there than to create (and complete) a sci-comm certification program?  Enter: overly-ambitious graduate student. 

Having completed certifications in Teaching & Learning, Online Education, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, I was familiar enough with the structure of these professional development programs to start putting the pieces together in collaboration with the Wyoming Science Communication Initiative (WySCI).  The first step was to draft a proposal to WySCI.  Only the Director (instructor for my class) knew what I was up to, so we planned the proposal. 

It started pretty basic with the introduction, purpose, objectives, and audience elucidated.   Everyone has done that at some point, right?  Then we got into the meat of it.  We hashed out the certification structure including how the program would be delivered (online, self-paced), proposed areas of focus, potential activities, and point allocation.  Next, we had to figure out how structured vs. self-directed the certification would be. 

We decided that there would be a set of required core requirements to make sure participants would have a solid foundation and orientation to sci-comm, and the rest would be self-directed in the areas of Policy & Advocacy, Education & Outreach, Science in the Media, Multimodal Methods, Building Community, and Accessibility

A flow chart depicting how to advance through the certification program.  Starting at the top, a blue hexagon labeled “Core: Initial” lists four activities: pre-cert survey, pre-cert stance, goals and messaging, and annotated bib.  A dark blue arrow points down to a green rectangle labeled “Choose Your Own Adventure” with six small arrows pointing to lighter green ovals labeled “Policy & Advocacy,” “Education & Outreach,” “Science in the Media,” “Multimodal Methods,” “Building Community,” and “Accessibility.”  From the central rectangle, a dark blue arrow points down to another blue hexagon labeled “Core: Final” that lists the last three activities: post-cert stance, post-cert survey, and final reflection.
The flow chart of activities that participants will generally following our certification program.  People will start out by completing the initial Core activities, then move to the Choose Your Own Adventure portion where they may complete tasks in any of the six areas of focus, and finish with the final Core activities in order to earn the certification. (©2021, Michelle Mason)

Getting the online course shell set up with all the assignments, literature, and reflection prompts was tedious, but pretty easy.  After that, all I had to do was design the actual paper certificate that would be given out to those who completed the program (of course, with my name as a placeholder).  WySCI loved the proposal and is totally on board.

Now the only challenge left is for me to go through my own program before the semester ends in a week… God bless the overly-ambitious graduate student. 


Update: The SciComm Certification launched in fall 2021. For details, see this UW press release. To enroll, visit uwyo.edu/wysci/programs-and-resources/scicomm-certification.

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