The overall goals of the course.
Communicating effectively is an essential scientific skill but rarely explicitly taught. Scientists must tell people about their work—their colleagues, the broader scientific community, students and the general public. All of these audiences have different levels of expertise and different goals for learning about science. Therefore each audience needs a specific message tailored to them. Not only must scientists tailor their message, they must also deliver it in a variety of different formats—in graphics, in writing, and in talks. Scientists with strong communication skills are better teachers, better colleagues, and more persuasive advocates for science. And yet we do not typically teach scientific communication directly.
To address this gap, we designed a class where students learn scientific communication in the context of problems relevant to their own research. We address three modes of scientific communication: graphics, writing and presentations. Across all of these sections, we emphasize three core principles: teaching a process, finding the essential story and getting critical feedback. Each section consists of hands-on exercises in small peer groups. We explicitly teach students how to lead these groups and how to constructively critique one another.