This week, Megan Litwhiler responds to the #MySciComm questions!
Megan is a scientist turned science communicator. After finishing her PhD in bird ecology, and a brief stint at Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, Megan moved on to her current role as a Research Communications Associate at the Museum of Science in Boston. When she’s not science communicating, she’s hanging with her daughter or birding – preferably both at the same time. Connect with her online @MegClock and the SciFund Challenge’s EcoTome blog.
1) How did you get into the kind of SciComm that you do?
I’m an ecologist by training, but I’ll talk your ear off about any kind of science
While I was working on my PhD, I discovered that scientists aren’t always that deft at explaining science, at least not to those outside of their specific discipline. By the time I finished my PhD, I realized how big of an issue this was in terms of integrating science and society, and I wanted to do something about it.
But transitioning from scientist to science communicator wasn’t easy.
I was used to communicating with my peers, but like most scientists, I was self-taught in terms of broader communication. “Well,” I thought, “I needed training to become a scientist, now I need some sci comm training.” So I did – online classes, workshops, blogging, whatever I could get my hands on.
All that training helped me land an awesome job at the Museum of Science in Boston. Now, I bring the work of some amazing scientists to our museum visitors in the form of presentations, podcasts, and hands-on activities. We also train scientists to share their work with broader audiences.
Basically, I get to talk about science for a living!
2) What are your top 3 SciComm tips and/or resources?
1. Every science communication professional will tell you this, but it’s worth repeating – training, training, training!
There’s a growing number of resources aimed at different sci comm needs and goals. Check out COMPASS, AAAS, AGU Sharing Science, Portal to the Public, ComSciCon, MIT’s Knight Science Journalism program, and more. I started out with #SciFund Challenge. They have awesome (and free!) online training courses.
2. Consider attending the AAAS annual meeting.
I went this past February as a consultant for the Presentation Rx Clinic, but I also took in as much of the meeting as I could. It was a great experience. Understanding the science of science communication is essential in developing best practices, and the AAAS meeting is where you’ll find it in abundance.
3. Go to a museum!
If you’re an #actuallivingscientist interested in outreach opportunities, museums can be your outlet. At the Museum of Science, we partner with current scientists and research centers to help them reach their broader impact goals by sharing their work with museum visitors and beyond.
If you’re looking for a job in sci comm, you might be as surprised as I was by the opportunities museums can offer. I thought museums just produced exhibits on broad topics, but there’s so much more – like this and this! And I discovered that many of my museum colleagues came from academia, just like me.