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Training in science communication and policy development


Scientists from universities, non-profit organizations, and agencies recently went back to school at UC Davis for a five-day-long workshop on science communication and policy development. The workshop, sponsored by the Heinz Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment, brought together researchers from non-profit organizations and government agencies, faculty, and graduate students to learn firsthand from journalists and policymakers about how to transmit scientific results so that they are clear and accessible to non-technical audiences.

Biological Invasions IGERT trainee Tawny Mata, and Responding to Rapid Environmental Change (REACH) IGERT trainees Sarah Myhre, Jen Balachowski, and Kelly Gravuer participated in the workshop. Developed by BioInv IGERT alumna Kit Batten, now a Project Director at the Heinz Center, training sessions included role-playing and practice in communications with individual feedback, presentations on the science-policy interface, preparation of a policy brief, and a press conference.

Mata commented, “Kit brought together a really impressive array of people on pretty short notice, particularly the panel of gubernatorial appointees on the last day.” Balachowski added, “Many of us applied ecologists walk a fine line between advocacy and objectivity. The policy memo-writing activity provided a good example of how I can communicate my research to policymakers in a way that maintains my credibility as a researcher.”

The IGERT trainees felt that the workshop contributed tremendously to their professional development. At the end of the week, Sarah Myhre remarked, “My experience at the workshop will have a lasting and positive effect on how I communicate with the media, other scientists and policy makers.”

The Heinz Center partnered with the John Muir Institute of UC Davis and two other non-governmental organizations, the Keystone Institute and the Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea (COMPASS), to develop the Science Communication and Policy Development Workshop. In Spring 2011, the Heinz Center will sponsor similar events at the University of Washington and Colorado State University. For more information, contact the Heinz Center.