Last August, I wrote a blog post that got picked up by the PLOS SciComm blog and shared widely on social media. Nobody liked it.
In it, I *attempted to* share my story about how confusing and frustrating it had been as a grad student (in the sciences) to try to find a path to a career in science communication, only to be constantly met by tips and resources and how-tos geared at scientists who want to communicate their own science.
At every turn, I asked for #scicomm, I got scientists. Every instance of #scicomm I encountered, whether it was someone literally using that hashtag online or the phrase used offline, was by or for career scientists. Everyone with #scicomm in their Twitter bio — that I knew of — was a student, postdoc, or professor in the sciences who thought themselves either a current or aspiring communicator of their field of science.
But this wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted a career where I would not be doing science, I would only be communicating it. In my particular case, I found science journalism, and loved it. But I actually had to set aside quite a bit of the #scicomm (that is, #scicomm for scientists) training I had received, because as a scientist-turned-journalist, you can write about pretty much anything except your own work, since that’s a conflict of interest.
Now, this story was meant to be a personal narrative. That the #scicomm that I, personally, had encountered, especially at my particular grad school and in my particular Twittersphere, from 2012-2018, was overwhelmingly by scientists, for scientists. I was (and am) well aware of other science communication career paths, but, in my sphere, those others weren’t using “#scicomm.”
Unfortunately, I didn’t do a good job writing this story. Because a lot of readers honed in on two big take-home points, neither of which I was trying to make (nor do I agree with):
I don’t believe either of these are true, and I apologize for any offense caused by my miscommunication!
So to clear the air: There are many, many careers in science communication. One option is to remain a scientist and communicate your own science via whatever outreach platforms you desire (except writing as a journalist about your own work). One option is to become a science journalist, in which case you can write articles, produce podcasts, or use whatever form of media to communicate to the masses about other people’s work (and not your own).
And there are a gazillion other options on the list of science communication careers. Here are just the ones people specifically mentioned in the comments, tweets, and DMs I received on the original post (in no particular order):
That’s a pretty good list. If yours isn’t here, please add it in the comments so everyone can be included.
Thanks for reading!
Musings on science writing, from a scientist turned writer.