One thing I’ve learned from my time in the W&M Public Policy Program is if you want to make any influence on policy, you should be able to communicate your position. If you can’t present a clear, coherent and concise argument, then your chances of influencing anyone are low. I’m fortunate that this message emphasizing communication has also started to bloom within the scientific community, especially from scientists that wish to have their work incorporated into setting policy. As a dual degree student in the W&M Master of Public Policy program and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s (VIMS) Masters program of Marine Science, I’m lucky to be in the crosshairs of these two amazing disciplines and the messaging on communication they both emphasize.
A few weeks ago I got to share some early results from some of my VIMS thesis work at a public outreach event titled “A Scientist Walks Into a Bar: Graduate Student Edition” held at Alewerks Brewing Company. The purpose of this event was to allow graduate students a platform to practice communicating their research with the general public. During my time at W&M and VIMS, I’ve spent a lot of time on trying to develop my science communication skills, ranging from taking a course offered by Virginia Sea Grant to helping Dr. Emily Rivest develop a Science Communication course being offered this semester. This event was exciting because it gave me another opportunity to practice these vital skills.
During the evening, I gave a short and sweet five-minute talk while sharing my results via poster with dozens of interested individuals. I worked hard on making my results easy to understand. I explained how I’ve been measuring different stakeholder’s attitudes towards science, local knowledge, and scientific modeling. These attitudes are becoming more similar as stakeholder groups interact together and share their ideas. That’s a punch line that I think everyone can understand; the more you talk to someone, the more similar how you think, feel, talk, etc. can become. I found the night a little ironic, a science-communication focused dual degree student speaking on the importance of communication, but I think the event went really well! Through relaxed conversation with many interested parties, I think I was able to spread the importance of social science research in the marine sciences paired perfectly with delicious beer!