Communicating Science (to Public Audiences): From Theory to Practice

deadline for submissions: 
January 15, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Julia Kiernan, Kettering University
contact email: 

Communicating Science (to Public Audiences): From Theory to Practice


Deadline for Proposal Submissions: January 15, 2020


Editor: Dr. Julia Kiernan, Assistant Professor of Communications, College of Sciences of Liberal Arts, Kettering University 

At this moment in history, conversations around the publics’ distrust in science are more

often the norm than the exception; while this distrust is not a new phenomenon, it is one

that post-secondary educators need to work vigorously to combat. One purpose of this collection, then, is to argue that the most effective way to shift this public attitude is not to better educate the layperson on scientific topics, but to better prepare future scientists to engage with non-expert audiences. This collection positions that post-secondary institutions, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, need to rethink the work that novice scientists engage with inside the classroom in order to ready these student-scientists to transition into professionals that realize and uphold “scientific citizenship,” defined as the “open dialogue between science and citizens and transparency in information and knowledge exchange” (Alan Irwin, qtd. in Nerlich, 2014).  Unfortunately, the ability to have “open dialogue” is extraordinarily challenging when the two sides are unable to communicate effectively. This collection, then, aims to offer a variety of cross-disciplinary, replicable solutions to this problem, with a focus on curricular revision and pedagogical innovation.

Current configurations of STEM curricula more regularly value (and therefore teach) the ability to communicate within singular and discrete scientific discourse communities (e.g. peer-to-peer, expert-to-expert); however, this training potentially impedes students’ communicative proficiency and literacy in other areas—areas that will be important to them as professionals who must not only engage with public audiences, but also be persuasive in these communications. The American National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), for instance, suggests that science communicators need to be prepared to: “share the findings and excitement of science,” “increase appreciation for science as a useful way of understanding and navigating the modern world,” “increase knowledge and understanding of science,” “influence people’s opinions, behavior, and policy preferences,” and “engage with diverse groups so that their perspectives about science related to important social issues can be considered in seeking solutions to societal problems that affect everyone” (National Academies, 2017, p. 2). Nevertheless, this preparation has not been fully recognized in recent pedagogical work, particularly in terms of new media and social media platforms. Moreover, because this training needs to take place across the curriculum, a central aim of this collection is to offer a range of voices across a range of disciplines. Interdisciplinary collaborations will be especially useful in these discussions. 

Potential chapter topics may consider (but are not limited to) the following:


  1. Interdisciplinary collaboration. Why types of interdisciplinary collaboration have you been involved in? What disciplines are involved? Why? If this was a course, what is the course level? How does your collaboration bring together and explore the converging influences on science communication across disciplines? How does your collaboration prepare students to engage with competing public perspectives on scientific topics?


  1. STEM courses that value public audiences. How does your STEM course value a variety of public and discipline-specific perspectives? How do students react to these discussions/assignments? What type of assignments/readings/discussions prepare your students to be able to move from discipline-specific to public discourse? 


  1. Narrative & story-telling. How/why do you teach narrative/story-telling to STEM students? How do you engage your students in conversations of ethics and responsibility when discussing narrative? What genres do students use to tell stories? What modes/mediums have your found to be most effective in the teaching/taking up of narrative?


  1. Media & controversy. How have you attended to the ways that the media translates complex, dynamic, and competitive topics for mass consumption?  Can you discuss ways you have invited students to unpack these controversies rather than dismiss them? How do you prepare STEM students to better understand (and push back against) the social forces behind media-driven science-related public controversy?


  1. Challenges and Barriers. What are the primary challenges that you have faced as a teacher/administrator? What are the curricular constraints to adding science communication to a traditional STEM course? What types of push back have you noticed in your students? How have you responded to these? 


  1. New Media & Social Media. How do you get students to engage with new media and social media when communicating science? What forms of new media/social media are students most comfortable with/least comfortable with? How do levels of comfort affect engagement with a target audience? What are your challenges as a teacher when moving through these non-text-based spaces?


  1. Building Trust. How do you discuss trust? What types of pedagogies do you employ that focus on trust-building in science communication? How do you take up the “citizen-science partnership” in these discussions?


  1. Responsibility & Ethics. How does a lack of trust fuel public disinformation/misinformation of science? What strategies have you (or your students) come up with to push back against the disinformation/misinformation of science? How do your students engage/react to assignments that require them to consider a scientist’s personal and social responsibility?


  1. Programmatic Initiatives. In what ways has your program worked to develop  “citizen-science partnerships”? Is this development at the course level, certificate level, or degree level? Who are the stakeholders? 


  1. Learning Spaces. Where do you teach science communication? Is it only in the classroom, why/why not? What other spaces (physical or digital) have you taken advantage of? What types of community-level engagement do your students practice?



500 word proposals should provide a brief narrative of the chapter’s aims, offer institutional context, situate the proposed chapter in existing scholarship, discuss the chosen approach/methodology, and consider implications for future research, pedagogy, and/or teacher education. 


Send as email attachments (preferably MS Word) with the subject line “Communicating Science Proposal” to Julia Kiernan ( Inquiries are encouraged and welcome. Deadline: January 15, 2020. 


If your proposal is accepted, you will need to submit a complete manuscript of no more than 6000 words in length by August 2020.


Notification of Acceptance: March 1, 2020 

Manuscripts Due: September 1, 2020 Projected Publication: Spring 2022