A major part of the mission of the Interfaces of Global Change Ph.D. program (IGC) at Virginia Tech is to help graduate students identify the different positive roles that they can play in society. Effective communication of scientific information to audiences with diverse backgrounds will be central to their success, regardless of what role they pursue. By developing the skills to make accurate science accessible to broader audiences, the students can help citizens make informed decisions that affect their own health, the environment, and society.

In keeping with these goals, IGC students recently attended a science communication workshop led by Susan Hassol, Director of Climate Communication, and Michael E. Mann, Professor of Meteorology at Penn State University. The day-long workshop addressed framing and messaging, scientists and social media, and media training.

The IGC students had this to say about the workshop:

“The tweeting and interviewing exercises had the biggest impact on me. Its not easy to condense big ideas into a few words!”

“I appreciated the discussion of how to prepare for and conduct media interviews. Although I found the practice session uncomfortable, it was invaluable!”

“I enjoyed the opportunity to practice some of the communication techniques we talked about and to receive feedback on delivery, messaging, etc. Sue provided helpful examples, both theoretical and real-life, to get her points across. I wish we could have had more time–maybe a weekend retreat next time?”

“The co-teaching was great. Susan and Mike complimented each other well.”

“Thanks for a thought-provoking day! I enjoyed how you promoted the use of different social media tactics and also the discussion of the need to tailor language use to appeal to different audiences.”

“The size of this workshop was ideal. It really facilitated participant interaction. I also appreciated the open and accessible natures of Sue and Mike–I immediately felt comfortable participating in the workshop. My only complaint: I would have liked more time to explore and practice these topics!”

“In the IGC program, we talk a lot about what role we want to play as scientists in public dialogue about climate change. Do we want to be the scientists behind closed doors? Do we want to advocate for change? Or do we want to provide information without advocating for any particular solutions? There are many different options for scientists, so we have a lot to think about. Meanwhile, workshops like this give us the tools we’ll need to play our chosen roles effectively.”