Sunday, February 19, 2017
Exhibit Hall (Hynes Convention Center)
Sara ElShafie, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
Scientists need to have excellent communication and presentation skills to convey their research to both academic and public audiences. Communication training is underemphasized in science degree programs, however. It is widely recognized that use of narrative structure can make scientific presentations more engaging and accessible. Here I offer a framework for science communication that employs story art strategies from filmmaking to construct a scientific narrative and translate it into a visual presentation. This framework first employs critical thinking questions to construct and refine a narrative around a scientific story (e.g., Is the protagonist the scientist or the study subject? What is interesting about them? What is the protagonist’s objective, and what obstacle is preventing it?). I then discuss how to develop a visual language to manage information density and help the audience follow the story using image keys, layout, shape, and color palette. I developed this framework after running a pilot workshop with story artists from Pixar Animation Studios. The workshop took place at the University of California Museum of Paleontology and attracted 60 participants, ranging from undergraduates to emeritus faculty. We discussed basic story art principles and how they apply to science communication. Post-workshop surveys unanimously indicated that attendees gained practical tools and motivation to enhance their scientific presentations, and would attend future workshops. I have used this framework in my own presentations for both scientific and general audiences. The approach has proven effective in both contexts. I am now preparing to conduct expanded workshops at conference, campus, and museum venues. I am also developing a guide that I plan to publish on an open access online platform. This framework will instill creative and effective science communication skills in students and scientists at all levels. It will also help scientists communicate their work to any professional or general audience.