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K-State Today

October 31, 2017

Participate in Science Communication Week

Submitted by Peter Dorhout

Science Communication Week logo

An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education earlier this month challenged the academic establishment by opening with, "Legislators and the public are often skeptical that higher-education tax dollars are being put to good use. Colleges see it as more important than ever, then, for academics to be able to explain their research in lively, accessible ways." We don't often convey to the public the broader impact of our research or the value added to the educational experience our students gain by being part of those scholarly activities.

Here at K-State and in Manhattan, we have stepped up to the challenge. A group has formed with the goal of engaging communities in understanding, enthusiastically promoting, and actively participating in science and research. Helping researchers and communicators talk to non-expert audiences about their work is an important part of accomplishing those goals. The Kansas Science Communication Initiative, or KSCI, comprises interested faculty, staff, and graduate and undergraduate students as well as community partners: Sunset Zoo, the Flint Hills Discovery Center, and the USDA-ARS Center for Grain and Animal Health Research. The group came together this year when several people on campus noticed that different entities were offering science communication training sessions for faculty and students. It was time to pool our talents.

KSCI started meeting in the spring, and our science communication efforts are already gaining notice. Two high-profile science communicators, Joe Palca and Maddie Sofia from National Public Radio, contacted K-State about the Science Communication Fellowship program offered by community partner Sunset Zoo, and KSCI seized the opportunity to invite Palca and Sofia to campus, structuring an entire week's worth of events around their visit. I hope you will take time to look at the array of activities being offered during the week of Nov. 6-11. Some events — a research colloquium, an expo at K-State Libraries and an improv workshop — are geared toward K-Staters who are interested in becoming more effective science and research communicators. Other events, including a talk by National Geographic Photographer Jim Richardson, Science on Tap with Joe Palca, and a talk and expo with Joe Palca and Sunset Zoo Science Communication Fellows, are for campus as well as public audiences.

I am pleased to be sponsoring KSCI, and I would like to take a moment to thank the other sponsors: The Office of the President, the Office of the Provost, the Graduate School, the Division of Biology, the Center for Engagement and Community Development, the Department of English, the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications, and the Division of Communications and Marketing.

All of us have a stake in communicating the impact and value of research at Kansas State University and how that research is integrated into our student experiences. Communicating our research to the broader public is imbedded within our land-grant mission to serve the people of Kansas. I invite you to engage with our communities of scholars by participating in Science Communication Week — come learn more about what's happening on our campus and in our own community and how you can step up to the challenge.