Author(s): Sara E Brownell, Jordan V Price, Lawrence Steinman
Communication of science to the general public is increasingly recognized as a responsibility of scientists (Greenwood, 2001; Leshner, 2003), yet how do scientists learn these skills? While scientists are thoroughly trained in research methodologies, analytical skills, and the ability to communicate with other scientists, they usually receive no explicit training in communication of scientific concepts to a layperson audience. Though most will agree that it is important for scientists to be able to communicate to non-scientists, this is a difficult skill that many practicing scientists lack, likely due to the combination of increased specialization over time and the absence of formal training in science communication. In this opinion piece, we argue that incorporating formal communication training into undergraduate and graduate curricula for aspiring scientists will enhance the quality of discourse between scientists and the lay public. We will provide general recommendations for those interested in developing basic science courses with an emphasis on communication with a layperson audience, with specific examples derived from our own experience developing and implementing a neuroimmunology course designed to promote science communication skills in parallel with mastery of scientific content.