Communication essential to scientists’ training

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Today more than ever it is increasingly important for scientists to communicate their findings with colleagues, other professionals in related fields and the general public.

Essential to this is the training of future researchers in the so-called STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and medicine.

At this year’s meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Karen Klomparens, dean of the Michigan State University Graduate School, gave her colleagues an update on how MSU is teaching these skills to future scientists.

Klomparens’ Feb. 14 presentation was part of a session titled “Building National Capacity in Science Communication for STEM Graduate Students.”

For more than a decade, MSU has had a graduate development program that includes communications training as one of the core components.

Opportunities available to students to gain competency in this area range from training and certification in teaching and writing to conflict resolution to several professional science master's degrees.

As part of the training, MSU graduate students will sometimes present their dissertations to lay audiences or discuss their research at government-organized symposiums.

Practical applications of these skills are useful for teaching, presentations and conferences, media interaction, and collaboration with industry and governmental organizations. This is especially helpful in situations where knowledge needs to be understood and applied by non-scientists.

We worked with both faculty and off-campus employers to define a range of additional graduate student and postdoc competencies to go along with excellent research skills,” Klomparens said. “Communication skills were one of those most often identified.

“Our alumni often tell us how beneficial these activities were to them during job searches.”

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