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Collaborate With Us

This photo shows a young man seated on the floor and another standing on a chair. They are looking at each other. Seated audience members look into the performance space from two sides.
Daniel Bird Tobin (on floor, left) and Al Evangelista (standing on chair) perform "Displacement," a collaborative SciArts piece about climate refugees, in the Cube at the Moss Arts Center. Photo courtesy of Lauren Holt.

Collaborate With Us

We don’t do anything alone. All of our successes and growth come from collaborations. We hope you'll join us!

Some of the many opportunities for collaboration with Virginia Tech's Center for Communicating Science include

  • Incorporating our workshops, intensives, and consultations into your grant proposals! See “Incorporate us into your grant proposals” below.
  • Applying for Faculty Fellow status. In what ways would you like to work with the Center for Communicating Science? We are currently engaged with other faculty on research, SciArts projects, and more! See “Join our research team” below.
  • Submitting a narrative account of your research (or someone else’s) for publication as part of our Research stories or StoryMaps projects. See “Share your research stories” below.
  • Sharing your research with the world through our annual Nutshell Games competition for graduate student researchers, our monthly Science on Tap events, our Girls Launch! kindergarten science visits project, or other outreach programs. See “Engage in science outreach with us” below.
  • Letting us know of your interests in this area so that we can work together in other ways (contact center director Patty Raun at praun@vt.edu).
  • Signing up to receive our e-newsletter so that you'll hear about upcoming events and projects: 

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Incorporate Us Into Your Grant Proposals

This photo shows at least seven pairs of young adults seated in chairs and facing each other, either speaking or listening. They are in a large room with hardwood flooring and big windows.
Communication is a skill that can be built, practiced, and improved through scaffolded exercises and experiences. Photo courtesy of Alexandra Freeze.

What can the Center for Communicating Science do for you and your colleagues? We can help you communicate your important research! 

The National Science Foundation is committed to greater transparency, better communication, and more effective engagement. In designing the broader impacts sections of grant proposals, researchers need to describe communicative products, specify whom these communicative products will empower and how, and identify the groups for whom this empowerment will improve quality of life (Lupia, 2020).

The Center for Communicating Science at Virginia Tech can help you maximize the benefits of your research and elevate your proposal by collaborating with you to build strong broader impact processes for NSF and other grant applications. Let’s partner to incorporate opportunities for your research team to develop the skills, tools, and communicative products needed to meet the goals of greater transparency, better communication, and greater engagement.

The workshops, bootcamps, and one-on-one consultation opportunities facilitated by the Center for Communicating Science provide individuals with the tools needed to engage and communicate effectively with individuals and groups. Please consider incorporating this work into grant proposals and let us help you maximize the impact of your research. Depending on the scope of your proposal, Center for Communicating Science faculty can be included as co-PIs or other personnel. Please contact Patricia Raun (praun@vt.edu) to let us know how we can support your proposal.

An important portion of the work of the Center for Communicating Science is funded by grants, fees charged for services, and stipends provided for specific engagements. Fees for the workshops, intensives, and consultations listed below are negotiated with consideration of location, means of delivery, number of participants, sponsoring entity, pre- and post-engagement activities, and content design requirements. We can also accommodate special requests to fit the needs of your proposal and research.

The following list provides samples of skill-development experiences that faculty associated with the Center for Communicating Science can provide. Contact us to talk about your specific needs.

Build the skills to support your will to collaborate! This participatory arts practices-based workshop will help participants develop their abilities to listen deeply, express themselves effectively, interact personally, directly, spontaneously, and responsively, and bridge divides that can prevent us from communicating and collaborating.

Explore the value of playful improvisation and serious games to help you establish more confident, productive, and effective connections with all of your collaborators at work and in life.

Build muscles of personal resilience and imaginative innovation. If you’ve experienced the value of improvisation in our Art of Yes! workshop or as part of our graduate class in Communicating Science, we know you’ll be interested in continuing to become more spontaneous, responsive, and aware. This series is for you!

Many science and industry professionals have been told to “develop your elevator pitch.” This workshop provides the tools to prepare for brief and compelling interactions that may occur on an elevator, in a media interview, or anywhere.

Participants in this workshop put the lessons and tools learned in “Distilling Your Message” into practice with mock media interviews. Interviews are video recorded so that interviewees can learn from performances.

Are you comfortable with introduction, methods, results, and discussion—but not with essays, op-eds, blogs, magazine writing, and letters to editors? Participants in this hands-on workshop will explore the components of writing for the public and will practice translating technical and highly specialized material into pieces that are accessible to the wider world.

If you can explain your research to a 4-year-old, you'll be able to explain it to anyone. In this workshop, we challenge you to get your research into 29 pages—with only a few sentences per page—as a picture book for young children. 

Stories that we tell about ourselves, our missions, and our community shape how we understand the past and what we think is possible to achieve. For collaborative leaders, stories help connect the members of an organization with a common understanding of purpose. Strengthen your story skills in this engaging workshop. 

Do you panic at the thought of explaining your work to a journalist? Have you had an interaction with a reporter that left you feeling as if you had failed to communicate? This workshop provides helpful tips for researchers whose work gets the attention of the media.

What are the steps that occur between your lab or field research and the story that shows up in the newspaper? How can you maximize clarity and accuracy and minimize errors and misunderstandings? This workshop explains the process of getting research findings out of the lab, office, or field and into the greater world.

You've got data. In the digital age, you perhaps have LOTS of data! And it means something to you. But how do you best let others see what it means? In this workshop, participants practice using data summary and visualization methodologies by walking through a case study with the instructor and then practicing steps on their own data.

Cluttered slides, sloppy figures, tiny type font: don’t let your presentation design prevent effective communication! This workshop provides tips and tricks on user experiences, establishing a strong hierarchy, typeface selection, data visualization, and giving presentations.

Twitter and Instagram provide opportunities and challenges for science communication and outreach. This workshop will introduce you to the basics of Twitter and Instagram and explore the ways these platforms can be used to network with other scientists and communicate with the public. 

It is said that the thought of public speaking is more frightening to many people than death. In this workshop participants use role-play and improvisation to develop the self-confidence and audience awareness required to deliver presentations that have memorable impact. 

Understanding the perspectives of others is increasingly important in our world, and 85 percent of job success comes from well-developed soft skills. The ability to understand and empathize with others is often seen to be the most valuable of these skills. In this participatory workshop you will learn approaches to authentic listening, transformational empathy, understanding others’ perspectives, and building trust.

Leadership presence, like stage presence, isn’t all about talent. It is about developing a set of skills that result in increased connection with your team and a sense of competence that builds trust and influence with others. This participatory workshop will help you develop presence as a leader, including considerations of behavioral impact, organizational impact, visual impact, and vocal impact.

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Almost 93 percent of human communication is non-verbal. Join us in developing more effective non-verbal communication skills – including tone of voice, physical orientation and environment, and body language.

In this workshop we’ll help you learn to use the gift of your voice as fully and expressively as possible. This workshop will introduce you to approaches to warming up your voice and articulators and improving your breath support, refining your articulation, and helping you connect emotionally and intellectually with the full range of your voice and speech in a variety of situations. 

Social media provides a way for graduate students, early career scientists, and others to network, do outreach, and raise the profile of their work with peers, potential collaborators, and employers. In this workshop, we will explore various strategies for creating a consistent profile across multiple social media platforms, blogging about your work, and having an engaging professional website. 

This initiative begins with a full-day Collaboration Incubator for 10 scientists and 10 artists, extends through the further development of several of the artist-scientist collaborations that emerge from the incubator, and culminates in performances and exhibitions of the resulting arts pieces that can help deliver innovative material to a variety of publics relative to broader impacts.

Real growth requires more than a couple hours of engagement in a workshop. Our intensive experiences provide a focused and concentrated combination of three workshops, which we can combine and adapt to meet your group’s needs. For example:

Communicating to a Public Audience for scientists, engineers, and professional communicators: The Art of Yes! (nine hours), Distilling Your Message (three hours), Writing for a Public Audience (six hours). Eighteen contact hours: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Personal Presence and Audience Awareness for researchers and scholars: The Art of Yes! (nine hours), Distilling Your Message (three hours), Effective Presentations (six hours). Eighteen contact hours: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. 

Networking Skills for industry and business professionals: The Art of Yes! (nine hours), Distilling Your Message (three hours), Leadership Presence (six hours). 18 contact hours: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Working on your own communication skills? Want to create a specific communicative product? We also offer individual consultations:

Communicating with those outside your field is very different from a scientific conference presentation. Let us help your research team develop engaging and informative approaches to educating your target audiences and spreading the good word about your research findings—and perhaps more importantly, approaches to hearing what your target audiences have to say. Town meetings? School visits? Planning sessions with community members? The common denominator is clear and engaging communication.  

Are you comfortable with your ability to communicate person-to-person but struggling with how to do your best in the age of Zoom meetings, interviews, conferences, and outreach? We can help! Our focus is always on communication that is personal, direct, spontaneous, and responsive—and we can teach you adaptations for that when you’re communicating with people in small boxes on a screen.

Center faculty can help you communicate your research through compelling videos, podcasts, and other forms of asynchronous oral communication. With advances in digital technology, you may be closer than you think to being able to post some great video abstracts on your website! Let us help you make this form of communication as effective as possible.

Consider including financial support for GRAD 5144, Communicating Science, in your training grant proposals or work with us to develop curriculum and training plans and materials tailored to your research team. Effective community engagement and communication skills are essential to successful research careers; be sure your students and post-docs have the opportunities they need to develop and practice such skills.

If you include the development of educational materials for target audiences in a grant proposal, we’re happy to provide guidance as you translate your research into language that your audience can understand and appreciate. This could include flyers, brochures, booklets, books, posters, and other materials. With help from University Libraries services that support campus teaching and learning, publication, and outreach, your work can be made widely available in open access educational materials with Creative Commons licensing.

Have you always thought your research would make a great topic for a children’s book? It probably would! We can help guide you through the process of brainstorming, developing storylines, writing and revising, finding collaborators to illustrate your ideas, creating backmatter, and finding venues for sharing your work with children.

     

Join Our Research Team

This photo shows about 20 people standing crowded together in a large room. Some have their hands joined together, some have an arm in the air, all are laughing or smiling.
Photo courtesy of Alexandra Freeze.

We have a number of collaborative research and creative arts projects underway and are always eager to explore more! Contact us if you've got an idea. Current projects include

  • An ethnographic study of the graduate Communicating Science course, GRAD 5144.
  • An assessment of the effects of research outreach experiences on graduate student self-efficacy and identity as scientists.
  • An exploration of gendered attitudes about science and scientists among children in their kindergarten and middle school years.
  • A SciArts project aimed at generating scientist-artist collaborations that will result in communicative products (performance pieces and exhibits).
  • Development of a science communication Pathways minor.

     

Engage in Science Outreach With Us

This photo shows two children, some PlayDoh containers, a large white skull, and a small plastic dinosaur with which one of the children is making prints in purple PlayDoh.
Two kindergarten students make dinosaur prints in PlayDoh as part of a Girls Launch! kindergarten science visit. Photo courtesy of Caitlin Colleary.

Virginia Tech's Center for Communicating Science hosts, sponsors, and collaborates to present a variety of events. These include

The Nutshell Games: 90-second research talks by graduate students, held each fall in conjunction with the Virginia Tech Science Festival.

New River Valley Science on Tap: Monthly science-inspired  speakers, performers, and discussions. We've held this event at Rising Silo Brewery, the River Mill, and (during the pandemic) online. 

Girls Launch!: Monthly science visits by women researchers to Giles County's Eastern Elementary/Middle School kindergarten classrooms. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, ten graduate student women created videos and activity guides, now available on our YouTube channel.

Communicating Science at Warm Hearth: Once a semester, Communicating Science graduate students visit Warm Hearth Retirement Village and give short presentations on their research to a public audience.

Middle school research talks: Once a semester, Communicating Science graduate students visit Giles County's Eastern Elementary/Middle School 6th and 7th grade classrooms to talk about their research and engage the children in science activities.

ComSciCon-Virginia Tech: March of 2019 marked the first ComSciCon to be held on Virginia Tech's campus, with 60 participants and a full day of workshops with a kick-off event the preceding evening. In February of 2020 a new team of graduate student organizers planned and hosted another successful ComSciCon event.

The center also often hosts special events. These have included an evening with science comedian Brian Malow, performing arts-science collaborations, a campus visit from the founder of Skype a Scientist, a workshop with Yale Climate Connections senior editor Sara Peach, and more.

Contact us if you’d like to participate in, help plan, or attend any of our outreach events!

     

We currently have three streams of stories through which researchers are sharing their work with the world. A collaboration with the Virginia Tech English department's science writing course has allowed us to pair undergraduate writing students with graduate student researchers for interviews resulting in feature stories. Graduate students writing for assignments in GRAD 5144, Communicating Science, may choose to polish their work for publication here. And a StoryMaps project initiated by graduate students Maddy Grupper and Susan Chen provides a community-level look at challenges to our food and water resources. You can find all this on our Research stories page!

Center for Communicating Science - teal and orange logo

Center for Communicating Science - teal and orange logo

     

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    Center for Communicating Science
    230 Grove Lane
    Blacksburg, VA 24061
    (Campus mail code: 0555)

    Director Patty Raun
    praun@vt.edu

    Associate Director Carrie Kroehler
    cjkroehl@vt.edu