This October marks the first annual Science Communication Month at Penn State. “SciComm” Month features a series of events aimed at opening up a discussion about the translation of science to the public and improving individual research communication skills.


Naomi Oreskes headshot and Colloquium title.

Colloquium on the Environment Naomi Oreskes: "Why we should trust science (most of the time)"

Monday, Oct. 26, 6:00 p.m., Freeman Auditorium in the HUB
Reception at the Hintz Family Alumni Center follows 

Dr. Naomi Oreskes
Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University
Co-Author of Merchants of Doubt

Many people are confused about the safety of vaccines, the reality of climate change, and other matters. Doctors tell us that vaccines are safe and climate change is real, but how do they know that?

How is an outsider to make sense of competing claims? In a recent Presidential Debate, Donald Trump rejected the position of Ben Carson—a doctor—and insisted that vaccines should be more widely spaced.  Is there any merit to that argument?  In this lecture, Professor Naomi Oreskes argues that we should trust science, but not for the reasons most of us think.  Moreover, there are clearly conditions that undermine scientific integrity, so we need to be cognizant of what those conditions are and how to recognize when they may obtain.
About Naomi Oreskes: 
For the past decade, Professor Oreskes has primarily been interested in the problem of anthropogenic climate change. Her 2004 essay “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change” (Science 306:1686) has been widely cited, both in the United States and abroad, including in the Royal Society’s publication, “A Guide to Facts and Fictions about Climate Change,” in the Academy-award winning film, An Inconvenient Truth, and in Ian McEwan’s novel, Solar. She told Harvard Magazine that following the publication of that article, "I was treated as if I had thrown some kind of grenade."


Her opinion pieces have appeared in The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Times (London), Nature, Science, The New Statesman, Frankfurter Allgemeine, and elsewhere. Her 2010 book, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco to Global Warming, co-authored with Erik M. Conway, was shortlisted for the Los Angeles Time Book Prize, and received the 2011 Watson-Davis Prize from the History of Science Society. The book examines how industry-funded misinformation campaigns have twisted and buried the science regarding the effects of smoking, acid rain, the ozone hole, and climate change.

The Annual Colloquium on the Environment is supported by PSIEE, OPP, The Center for Pollinator Research, The Earth System Science Center and the Sustainability Institute.

Seminar Rethinking Slide Design in Scientific Presentation: the Assertion-Evidence Approach

Thursday Oct. 1, 1:00-2:00 p.m., 244 Ag Engineering

Michael Alley
Associate Professor, Engineering Communication

A small, but growing, revolution is occurring in the way that scientists design their presentation slides. This revolution advocates alternatives (based on multimedia learning principles) that challenge PowerPoint's default structure of a topic-phrase headline supported by a bullet list of subtopics. One such alternative is the assertion-evidence structure, in which a sentence headline states the main message of the slide. That message assertion is then supported not by a bullet list, but by visual evidence.

Seminar Everyone Needs an Elevator Pitch: Strategies to Engage Non-Technical Audiences on Technical Research Topics

Thursday Oct. 8, 3:30-5:00 p.m., 244 Ag Engineering

Andy Gustafson
Smeal College of Business

Skilled scientists and engineers must be equipped with not only technical expertise, but also with communication skills that can get others interested in their areas of research. This could mean the difference between—success or failure--in launching a new business, gaining a grant, or garnering support from the community at large regarding why your work matters. Learn strategies from a business communications expert to condense your key message into a "pitch" that can be given in the duration of a typical elevator ride.

Graduate Student Seminar One Minute to Impress: Message Box Workshop

Thursday Oct. 15, 10 a.m. - 12 p.m., HUB 129

Nancy Baron
Click here to learn more about the COMPASS trainings

This workshop is for Penn State Graduate students in any field. Registration is required as lunch will be provided.

Have you ever had someone ask you about your research only to see their eyes glaze over as you try to explain? Do you want to communicate your in a way that will make people lean in and listen? Honing your message and illustrating a few key interesting points about your research will help you to resonate with any audience and leave them wanting more.

Nancy Baron, lead communications trainer with COMPASS and author of Escape from the Ivory Tower: A Guide to Making Your Science Matter, will lead a two hour interactive workshop for graduate students where you will master the art of the "elevator speech." Nancy will teach you how to use a powerful tool called the Message Box to distill what really matters, and will share useful techniques to help you better engage and connect to your audience… even if you only have one minute.

Plenary Pulling Back the Curtain

Thursday Oct. 15, 4 p.m., 8 Mueller Lab

Moderated by Nancy Baron, Director of Science Outreach at COMPASS
Journalist panel includes:
Christopher Joyce - NPR
Juliet Eilperin - Washington Post
Amanda Paulson - Christian Science Monitor
Emily Reddy - WPSU-FM
Amy Matthews Amos - Freelance reporter

A behind-the-scenes look at the changing world of journalism. Leading journalists discuss how the media is changing and what it means for communicating science to the public and policymakers. They will share their personal perspectives on how to get your stories told and what makes a good science story, and “do's and don'ts" of dealing with journalists. This lively session will encourage Q and A.

Brown Bag Seminar:  Climate Change Communication: Bridging the gap between lay audiences and scientists

Thursday Oct. 22, 12 - 2 p.m., 244 Ag Engineering

Dr. Janet Swim, Penn State Social Psychology

Dr. Swim is working with an interdisciplinary team of social and climate scientists to develop methods to communicate climate science communication to the public.  The products of this work are successfully being used in many Zoos and Aquariums across the nation.  The strategies employed are of relevance to other contexts as well.   

Preparatory research conducted by Frameworks Institute led to the development of strategic message framing. This research revealed specific gaps between experts and lay understanding of climate change and climate systems.  As a result, many are uncertain about climate science or do not know how to talk about the complexities of climate change to others.  The public also has a mixture of productive and unproductive cultural mental models about climate change that influences their responses to climate science communications.  This seminar will identify specific knowledge gaps, illustrate some productive and unproductive cultural models, and present research-supported suggestions about how to present climate change science to lay audiences.

Feel free to bring your lunch to this seminar. 

Seminar Science Communication and the Internet

Thursday Oct. 29, 2:00-3:30 p.m., 244 Ag Engineering

Brad Woods
Research Ethics Educator, Office for Research Protections

Recently, famed science communicator and Twitter celebrity, Neil deGrasse Tyson caused uproar among some of the most loyal of his fans and near 3 million Twitter followers when he Tweeted the following on Christmas: On this day long ago, a child was born who, by age 30, would transform the world. Happy Birthday Isaac Newton b. Dec 25, 1642.

While Tyson claimed he was simply sharing his enthusiasm for Newton, some say such a statement does more to alienate, rather than unite interests. While Tyson’s fame is associated with his unique ability to convey (often complex) science to lay audiences, what risks are involved for scientists and scholars who decide to maintain an active presence on popular Internet forums and social media sites? This workshop examines Tyson and other such science communicators, and discusses both the potential benefits and drawbacks when research dissemination and discussion moves beyond peer review publication.

Brown Bag Seminar The Role of Communications Research in Science Communication: Theory, Practice and Funding Opportunities

Nov. 5, 12:00-2:00 p.m., 244 Ag Engineering

Panel Discussion
College of Communications

Representatives from the College of Communication will discuss the resources and expertise the college can provide to support more effective science communications efforts. Dr. Colleen Connolly-Ahern will moderate an informal discussion with faculty members Fuyuan Shen, Denise Bortree, George Anghelcev and Lee Ahern. The panel will discuss how communications theory and methodology can inform and improve science communication efforts, with both theoretical and practical implications, as well as internal and external funding opportunities to support science communications projects. The goal is to share strategies for designing research-driven communication campaigns and describe the college’s capabilities as a partner in science grant proposals. Feel free to bring your lunch to this seminar.