PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


SITN Harvard
Molding the next generation of scientists to build an effective public interface

Vinidhra Mani  

Harvard University's Science in the News (SITN) is a graduate student organization devoted to bridging the communication gap between scientists and the general public, while also training graduate students to effectively interface with diverse audiences. For 17 years, the model by which SITN has been furthering scientific training and communication allows for adaptation and personalization to various audiences, through constantly evolving peer-peer and scientist-public feedback that keeps the organization abreast of the times and allows young scientists to more effectively interface with the public. When the organization started, the major form of communication was through in-person events such as science cafes called "Science by the Pint", held in a bar venue, and two annual Lecture Series held through the course of the academic year at Harvard- all free and open to the public. While these flagship programs continue to run robustly with audiences of hundreds in the Boston area, the dawn of communication technologies and social networks have allowed the science reach to extend even further. We have now begun to apply our in-person strategies online via Reddit "Ask Me Anything", our online blog "Signal to Noise", and our newest endeavor, a podcast titled "SIT'N Listen!", which engages in bites of jargon-free scientific background on a topic, followed by discussion with experts in various scientific fields and deep social media connections. Through our experiences, we have found that the most effective way to engage the general public in science is to create an interactive interface with them and build these relationships through consistent portals of feedback. We, the next generation of scientists, are learning to harness the power of digital interfaces to interface with members of the nonscientific community across the world and thus taking one large leap into an interdisciplinary world.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.