About the Course

ESCI 547 Introduction to Science Communication in the Earth Sciences is a fun 1-credit seminar-style course that meets on TUESDAYS 12-1pm in KWGL 227.

This course will introduce students to Earth Science communication by exposing them to Rice communication professionals and EEPS researchers with various communication experience in the Earth Sciences. They will learn to convey Earth Science to the lay audience through a variety of methods such as media reporting, museum programming, and K-12 public outreach.

Students will learn about plain language, effective presentation styles and strategies, and conduits to improve their writing and speaking skills. They will explore diverse methods of communication and evaluate their applicability and effectiveness.  Students will have the opportunity to apply these directly through various new and existing formats of Earth Science communication in the EEPS department, particularly by practice expressing their own EEPS research in a way the public may understand, enjoy, and share.


Laura Carter

Instructor, ESCI PhD Candidate, Outcroppings Student Editor


Linda Welzenbach

Assistant, ESCI Science Writer


OTHER REFERENCES (courtesy of American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology):

Guides to Science Communication:

The IPCC: https://climateoutreach.org/resources/ipcc-communications-handbook/

AGU’s Sharing Science: https://sharingscience.agu.org/

About Science Communication:

Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science: http://www.centerforcommunicatingscience.org/

Bodmer, W., Public Understanding Of Science: The BA, The Royal Society and COPUS. Notes and Records of the Royal Society, 2010. 64: p. 1-11.           (I have the pdf of this if anyone is interested. LW)

Burns, T.W., D.J. O’Connor, and S.M. Stocklmayer, Science Communication: A Contemporary Definition. Public Understanding of Science, 2003. 12(2): p. 183-202.

Falk, J.H., M. Storksdieck, and L.D. Dierking, Investigating public science interest and understanding: evidence for the importance of free-choice learning. Public Understanding of Science, 2007. 16(4): p. 455-469.

Martín-Sempere, M.J., B. Garzón-García, and J. Rey-Rocha, Scientists’ motivation to communicate science and technology to the public: surveying participants at the Madrid Science Fair. Public Understanding of Science, 2008. 17: p. 349-367.

McCallie, E., et al., Many Experts, Many Audiences: Public Engagement with Science and Informal Science Education, 2009, Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education: Washington, D.C.

Nisbet, M. and D.A. Scheufele, What’s Next For Science Communication? Promising Directions and Lingering Distractions. American Journal of Botany, 2009. 96(10): p. 1767-1788.

Pew Research Center, February 15, 2015, “How Scientists Engage the Public” Available at: http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/02/15/how-scientists-engage-public/

Scherz, Z. and M. Oren, How to Change Students’ Images of Science and Technology. Science Education, 2006. 90(6): p. 965-985.

  • Richard Feynman giving one of his famous lectures https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3mhkYbznBk&feature=youtu.be
  • Carl Sagan giving the Faraday Christmas Lecture in 1977. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdXtjNSDi4s&feature=youtu.be

About Audiences:

Benoit, W. and P. Benoit. Persuasive Messages: The Process of Influence. 2008: Wiley-Blackwell.

Deborne, J.A. (2011) Constructing audiences in scientific controversy. Social Epistemology, 25(1) 67-95

Falchetti, E., S. Caravita, and A. Sperduti. What do laypersons want to know from scientists? An analysis of a dialogue between scientists and laypersons on the web site Scienzaonline. Public Understanding of Science, 2007. 16(4): p. 489-509.

Haskins, W.A.. Ethos and Pedagogical Communication: Suggestions for Enhancing Credibility in the Classroom. Current Issues in Education, 2000. 3(4).

Nisbet, M. and E. Markowitz. Understanding Public Opinion in Debates over Biomedical Research: Looking beyond Political Partisanship to Focus on Beliefs about Science and Society. PLoS ONE, 2014. 9(2).

Pielke Jr., Roger. The Honest Broker. 2007: Cambridge University Press.

  • Journalist David Pogue speaks at the National Academies of Science on “Journalists as Conduits Between Science and the Public” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRaMVE14SCQ&feature=youtu.be

Presenting Science to Lay Audiences:

Fiske, S. and S. Taylor, Social Cognition. Second ed. 1991, New York: McGraw-Hill.

Gamson, W.A. and A. Modigliani, Media discourse and public opinion on nuclear power: a constructionist approach. American Journal of Sociology, 1989. 95: p. 1-3.

Kahan, D. Climate-Science Communication and the Measurement Problem. Advances in Political Psychology, 2015. 36, p. 1-43.

Nisbet, M. and D.A. Scheufele, What’s Next For Science Communication? Promising Directions and Lingering Distractions. American Journal of Botany, 2009. 96(10): p. 1767-1788.

Barker, E. How to Be a Better Writer: 6 Tips From Harvard’s Steven Pinker. Time Magazine, 2014. Available at: http://time.com/3584611/write-better-tips-from-harvard/

Whittington, C.P., Pellock, S.J., Cunningham, R.L. and J. R. Cox. Combining Content and Elements of Communication into an Upper-Level Biochemistry Course. 2014, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education. 42(2): p. 136-141.

Kuhnke, E., Body Language For Dummies. For Dummies Series. 2012: Wiley.

Sauter, D.A., et al., Cross-cultural recognition of basic emotions through nonverbal emotional vocalizations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2010. 107(6): p. 2408-241

Su, A. J. How to Calm Your Nerves Before a Big Presentation. Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/2016/10/how-to-calm-your-nerves-before-a-big-presentation

  • Watch science communicator extraordinaire Randy Olson talk about his ABT approach to storytelling: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=ERB7ITvabA4
  • Matthew Nisbet talks about using frames to communicate about climate change.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=vVVG9HqQZ9o
  • This video from Ben Ames won the 2012 “Flame Challenge.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ymAXKXhvHI
  • TED talk from social psychologist Amy Cuddy on the importance of body language. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks-_Mh1QhMc
  • A presentation by Jean-luc Doumont on the use of Powerpoint https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meBXuTIPJQk&feature=youtu.be

Weekly Agenda & Resources

This schedule will be updated and expanded throughout the semester