Effective Science Communication

Mastering the art of science communication

Disseminating the results of your work is central to your role as a researcher, and not just to the scientific community. In the current climate of misinformation and public scepticism, communicating science effectively to the general public and to policy makers has become more important than ever before.

A matter of trust

According to a November 2021 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, the number of US adults with a great deal of confidence in scientists to act in the best interests of the public was down by 10% from the previous year to just 29%. With social media fast becoming a primary information source for society as a whole, this loss of public trust in science is closely linked to poor communication.

Poor science communication can have a significant effect on events at a national or even global level. According to the World Economic Forum, poor communication by scientists and experts too often led to the low take-up of measures that could have saved lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Being a better science communicator helps better inform your future research, because if you don’t know what’s working, how are you going to create the best research for society?” Suze Kundu, Digital Science

A daunting prospect

On a broad scale, good communication empowers the scientific community to help address global challenges, by building stronger links with policy makers, industry, and the general public. Disseminating your work successfully will also boost your career as a researcher. There’s no doubt though that explaining complex scientific findings to people outside your field is a significant challenge. The skillset required for doing so effectively can be acquired and developed with practice though.

Science communication is a craft, and it’s something you can get better at with practice and training…. you’ll be more effective, and you’ll have more fun.
Laura Helmuth, Scientific American

What researchers want to know

Nature Portfolio conducted an international survey in 20221 asking researchers which professional skills they needed most to support their careers. 97% of researchers (n = 516) felt that communicating science to the general public was important for their success. In addition, 61% of these researchers (n = 501) found this a challenging task.

Digging deeper, the most challenging aspect of science communication was identified by nearly 60% of researchers (n = 501) as conveying science to non-scientific audiences in an accessible and engaging way. Their biggest learning priority was identifying the core message and the most impactful or relatable message for general public audiences.

Fig. 1. Ranked main challenges a researcher faces when communicating their findings to the general public, as identified by end-users (n = 260) and purchasers (n = 210). Interviewees were allowed to choose a maximum of 3 challenges from a predefined list.

Empowering researchers

These clear priorities form the basis of a new Nature Masterclasses on-demand course. Effective Science Communication is designed for researchers in the natural sciences who would like to learn how to communicate their research to a broader audience, as well as those who wish to improve their current skills. The course fully prepares researchers for communicating any piece of research, published or unpublished, to a variety of audiences.

Participants focus on the core tools and techniques necessary throughout the process, including identifying communication goals, understanding different audiences, and crafting a key message.

What researchers will learn

Once the course is completed, researchers will be able to:

  • Compare different audience requirements and tailor communications accordingly
  • Select a relevant communication channel for their needs in a specific situation
  • Understand how using storytelling techniques can build a compelling case around their research
  • Apply strategies to help communicate their research in an accessible and persuasive way to a non-scientific audience
  • Apply tips and techniques for communicating their research - whether writing, public talks and presentations, social media or media interviews.

Developed by experts

A panel of renowned science communication professionals helped refine the course content for Effective Science Communication. The expert contributors include award-winning science writers, editors and communicators:

  • Laura Helmuth, Editor-in-Chief, Scientific American 
  • Alok Jha, Science and Technology Editor, The Economist 
  • Suze Kundu, Director of Researcher and Community Engagement, Digital Science

A broad range of experienced science communicators also share their extensive experience via video interviews:

Key course features

Effective Science Communication is a self-paced, on-demand course designed to fit easily into researchers’ busy schedules. Divided into convenient bite-sized units, it covers 6.5 hours of learning in ten 30-minute lessons and comes with a certificate on completion.

Researchers are in total control of their learning environment, free to dip into the course without disrupting or slowing down their day-to-day work.

Supporting researchers’ career success

The skills learned in this course can be further complemented by the training offered in companion courses in the Nature Masterclasses range, including Narrative Tools for Researchers and Advancing your Scientific Presentations.

Nature Masterclasses supports researchers to develop the skills they need at any stage of the research cycle, by providing professional development from leading experts and empowering scientists to succeed in their fields and to further the future of science.

1Data from independent research for Springer Nature: Nature Masterclasses, 2022 (n = 516)