We're on a mission to provide high-quality communication training to every scientist (who wants it)

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We're on a mission to provide high-quality communication training to every scientist (who wants it)

Introducing the new Massive Science Consortium

Today, we’re starting something big. We’re going to provide every scientist who wants it with affordable, high-quality, practical training in science communication. We welcome any researcher in a STEM field who wants to learn to communicate with any audience – from the public to policymakers to colleagues to funders to friends and family – to join our Consortium.

Over the last year, our team of professional editors and trainers has developed a unique, hands-on method for teaching narrative science storytelling and used it to train hundreds of scientists. We’ve published many of those stories to our website, and distributed them to a growing science-curious audience that has been cultivated by audience development professionals. In the process, we’ve built an incredible community of researchers around the world who support each other and discuss science, scicomm, careers, and much more.

Since we started, we’ve met groups around the world doing amazing work to make science communication training available to more scientists. But there’s still unmet demand for more, which we see in the increasing number of these groups and in the researchers who apply to join our Consortium every day.

Why is demand outstripping supply? Simple: few of the groups offering training are able to do so in a way that is accessible, affordable, and sustainable. Many of the training groups we’ve come to admire rely on volunteer labor or one-off grants from a small number of foundations to sustain themselves. Others require commitments of money, time, and travel that are unreasonable for all but the world’s top researchers.

This isn’t an indictment of those programs – in fact, we’re thrilled to be working alongside many of them to provide their trainees with more opportunities, and will continue to do so. But this gap speaks to a root problem that we all need to address: although there’s significant appreciation and demand for science communication training, especially among early-career scientists, the scientific community as a whole doesn’t value it nearly enough. 

Research tells us that learning to tell stories makes scientists more effective not just as communicators, but as researchers. Despite the evidence, few STEM programs, at any level, offer training courses or even modest skill development budgets.

That’s why today, we’re launching a membership program for grad students, post-docs, and professional scientists. For a small yearly fee, researchers will receive online training and certification in science storytelling, one-on-one feedback from our staff, opportunities to continuously practice and hone their communication skills, and access to events, resources, job listings, and our vibrant community. Charging a small fee will help us provide training sustainably to more researchers, and start to establish the literal value of science communication training in the community.

Much of that money will go back to community members. We pay writers for articles we publish on our public-facing website, as well as editors and trainers we’ve hired out of our community for their work. In addition to helping scientists learn communication skills that will help them as researchers, we’ll further demonstrate the value of scicomm by showing that there are viable career paths for researchers who want to pursue careers in media and training.

But it’s not enough just to be self-sustaining within the scientific community. We want to prove that science communication is valuable to society, too. Later this year, we plan to launch memberships for policymakers, researchers, and the science-curious public who want to be a part of building a more science-driven society. To convince them to pay for science communication, we have to reckon with another reason it isn’t always valued as highly as it should be: it’s not always practiced effectively.

One of the lessons we bring with us from our experiences at The Guardian, Fast Company, Buzzfeed, Upworthy, Mashable, Muckrock, and HarvardX, is that it isn’t enough just to communicate. Very few people wake up in the morning and think, “I want to be communicated to about science today,” or “would someone please engage me about science?” Most audiences don’t just want information, they want their emotional and psychological needs met. They want to be informed, persuaded, and most of all, entertained.

Learning to meet these needs while maintaining scientific integrity isn’t easy. You’ll need to go further than just communicating more, with less jargon. You’ll need to learn to tell narrative stories, which are the most effective way to communicate science to anyone (even to scientists). You’ll also need to identify your audience, establish truly bi-directional dialogues with them, understand what they expect from you, and learn to bring your expertise to that audience in the best place and best medium for them.

Truthfully, no one should need to know how to do all of these things. There’s a reason media companies with specialized editorial, production, and audience development departments exist. That’s why we’re bringing our own expertise in these areas to Massive, making it easier for you to practice your skills with real editors and connect with real audiences.

There’s an unprecedented opportunity before us. Scientists like you are among the most trusted people in modern society. You speak with far more authority than journalists, politicians, and business leaders. Not only do you have more authority, but interest in science is something that spans the political spectrum. If more scientists like you can learn to communicate using effective narrative storytelling, they have the potential to not only be highly valued by society, but to bring diverse communities together and become an incredible force for good in the world.

We started Massive to give scientists and the public the tools to come together and understand each other. That’s why, starting today, we’re making what we do available to anyone who wants it, at a price that should work on just about any budget.

Let’s build a more science-driven society, together. Join us.

– The Massive Team

P.S. If you represent a training group, university, or other institution and you're interested in working with us, we want to hear from you. Send us a note!