Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Craig Cormick Publishes New Book on Science of Communicating Science

Are you wishing you knew all you need to know about better communicating science, without having to read several hundred academic papers and blogs and books? Then this book is for you!

Dr. Craig Cormick, Australia's leading science communicator has published his new book, The Science of Communicating Science: The Ultimate Guide together with CABI and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). The book aims to help solve a major problem that many scientists face at some point in their career: how do I communicate my work to society?

The Science of Communicating Science  is a rare book that combines academic rigor with the ease of reading a blog. It's a solid one-stop-shop where scientists can learn about the main aspects of science communication without – as the blurb says – “having to read several hundred academic papers and blogs and books.” The book also helps to solve an unusual problem surrounding science communication: the disconnect between scientists and the information available on science communication.

The book's four-part structure creates a comprehensive but digestible road map for science communications. Here are short descriptions of each part:
  • Part 1: The ground rules. This section lays facts and truths that are essential to understand before wading into setting up Facebook accounts or drafting press releases. It covers the importance of observing and understanding your audience, audience segmentation, creating SMART goals – even when the temptation might be to dive into creating an explosive, viral YouTube video.
  • Part 2: Communication tools. This is the main section of the book and includes practical advice about specific communication tools. Its introduction helpfully explains the importance of simple messaging (not dumbing down) and tools like the message box and half-life messages, and the power of metaphors. It has a nice long chapter on the media and another chapter on social media, the two tools that most scientists have hesitations or reservations about, but are the ones they are most often pulled towards. 
  • Part 3: When things get hard. This is one of the most interesting parts of the book, since it tackles exactly those times that scientists dread the most: what to do when things get hard. In a world of fake news, can you really change behaviours and opinions? How do you share data and evidence that compete with beliefs and values?
  • Part 4: Science communication issues. The final section of the book includes some thought provoking issues, including ethics – essential for those wanting to communicate science faithfully and objectively while understanding that opinions and personality are often an important element of communication.
The book also contains interesting and relevant case studies, with each chapter ending with a section entitled ‘What to do with what you now know’, which offers practical steps for taking action, as well as ‘Key summary points’ to capture the highlights of each chapter. There are also excellent endnotes for further reading. The charts, illustrations and tables enhance the book’s messages.

As the blurb states, this book would be suitable for “anyone who is interested in science communication and all scientists wishing to improve their own communication techniques.” But given its scientific basis, it would be a good read for anyone with a technical background too. Dr Cormick often mentions biologists, chemists and physicists, but engineers and software developers who find themselves needing to communicate complex ideas to general audiences – possibly even customers – would benefit from this book as well. Those already working in science communications, such as marketing and PR, can also benefit from this book.

Dr. Cormick is, of course, a science communicator himself with over 25 years of experience. He’s worked with organisations such as CSIRO, Questacon and the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. He has been widely published on science communication issues in key journals and the popular media, including ABC Radio National’s The Science Show, the Conversation, and has twice appeared in Best Australian Science Writing. He is a popular speaker on science communication issues at conferences in Australia and overseas. In 2013, he was awarded the Unsung Hero of Science Communication by the Australian Science Communicators (ASC) and is currently the President of the ASC. He is also a writer of fiction – a storyteller. The chatty, humorous way in which he writes makes this an easy book to read, while he keeps his eye clearly on the science audience for which this book is intended.

In sum, for any scientist needing to communicate their work, this book will be a thoroughly helpful resource. To get a copy, visit the CABI Bookshop.