Kenya Collaboration, Other Projects Bring Spring Travel
Virginia Tech’s Center for Communicating Science (CCS) is extending its work this semester to Kenya, Wales, England, California, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, with center faculty and associates facilitating workshops and intensives, giving presentations, participating in special projects, and exploring collaborative possibilities.
Two workshops in early January, at the Northeastern Weed Science Society (NEWSS) meeting in Boston, got a busy semester off to a good start. Facilitated by center director Patty Raun, the workshops offered opportunities for faculty, postdoctoral researcher, and graduate student conference participants to build communication skills.
Currently underway is a series of communicating science workshops for faculty at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), who are part of the National Institutes of Health-funded program Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity: Promoting Opportunities for Diversity in Education and Research (BUILD PODER). The 15 faculty participants in the 7-week CCS workshop series had requested workshops on building networking and team skills and are committed to advancing health equity research.
“This is a delightful group of faculty members,” commented center senior faculty fellow and workshop facilitator Daniel Bird Tobin, “really committed to the work that we are doing each week.” Raun and associate center director Carrie Kroehler are also facilitating the CSUN workshops, with a final session in March on media interviews led by former WDBJ news anchor and School of Communication faculty member Robin Reed.
Also underway is a series of communicating science workshops for early career agricultural researchers from research institutions in Kenya. Selected from a pool of more than 40 applicants, the 20 participants in the Agricultural Productivity Enhancement and Communicating Science Project (APECS) will attend Zoom workshops facilitated by Raun, take advantage of 20 hours of self-paced online learning, and ultimately gather at Egerton University, the oldest institution of higher education in Kenya. The in-person summit, set for May 6-10 in Njoro, will include communicating science discussions and experiential learning opportunities as well as the Case Challenge, a research presentation competition. Funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agriculture Service grant, the APECS is co-hosted by Egerton University and Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Global Programs.
“I can’t wait to learn from these folks about their expertise, needs, and wishes related to communicating science,” Raun said. “It’s a delight to work with Dickson Otieno and Tom Thompson in CALS Global Programs.”
In March, Raun will head to the United Kingdom for a series of presentations and meetings with faculty and others at various centers and universities. Her travels will include collaborative conversations and facilitating an afternoon workshop on March 6. The workshop, “Telling Your Research Story,” will be shared with 20 researchers from a broad range of disciplines at Aberystwyth University. The visit was organized and sponsored by the university’s Dialogue Center (Dr. Jen Wolowic, director).
Raun will then travel to London to consult with several universities about their approaches to communicating research and whether they include arts methods. She is particularly looking forward to learning more about the Science Communication Unit at Imperial College.
The U.K. trip will conclude with a two-day interaction with members of the Science, Health, and Data Communications Research Centre at Bournemouth University. This visit was organized by Dr. Anna Feigenbaum, who co-heads the Centre. On March 11 and 12 Raun will facilitate a workshop for the entire Centre community. In “The Art of Connecting Across Difference: Improvisation for Research Communication,” Raun will share a sampling of some of the participatory improvisation exercises that can lead to more effective and engaging interactions with collaborators and with public audiences. The next day she will present “Communicating Science beyond Posters, Pamphlets, and Videos” and will participate in a community-wide collaboration and networking event focused on the value of arts and creative practices in science and health communications.
Also scheduled for the center is a 2-day intensive in June for graduate students at Rutgers University’s Center for Computational and Integrative Biology. Facilitated by Raun along with Jon Catherwood-Ginn and Elizabeth Gray, the June 4 and 5 workshops are part of a National Science Foundation Research Training program.
Here at home, the center is maintaining its monthly Science on Tap outreach events at Rising Silo Brewery and kindergarten science visits at Eastern Elementary/Middle School in Giles County. Scheduled workshops will serve the undergraduate-level course Neuroscience of Drug Addiction, a graduate-level course in microbial physiology, the 9th Annual Uplifting Black Men conference, Graduate Women in Chemistry’s IUPAC Global Women’s Breakfast, the Graduate Engineering Mechanics Society, the Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health program’s professional development and ethics course, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and more.