2023 Inclusive SciComm Symposium

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The 2023 Inclusive SciComm Symposium will take place in-person at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, RI, USA, October 19-21, 2023. Additional virtual sessions will be held on 9/29/23, 10/6/23, 10/13/23, and 11/3/23. Learn more about the Symposium, our goals, values and more here.

Keynote lectures will be recorded and archived on the Metcalf Institute YouTube channel. Select ISCS23 presentations will be recorded and offered as public videos on the Metcalf Institute YouTube channel after the Symposium.

Learn more about submitting your proposal here! Co-presenters can submit their demographic info here


2023 Inclusive SciComm Symposium Themes

1. Language Matters.

Language is a crucial, yet often overlooked, tool for promoting access to and inclusion in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, medicine) fields.

In order to highlight the importance of language, this theme will explore two primary facets: multilingual science communication and more intentional approaches to word choice. Multilingualism increases the diversity of perspectives that participate in science, and enriches scientific discourse through the inclusion of knowledge that is only available in one or a subset of languages. Yet, languages other than English are underused in public engagement. Moreover, much of science communication assumes that all participants are primary English speakers, and has the potential to exclude individuals and communities. Additionally, commonly used scientific terms have the potential to cause unintended harm to marginalized communities and reinforce oppressive systems, discriminatory tropes, and offensive terms. The use of such terms can create exclusionary environments that prevent marginalized individuals from fully and safely participating in STEMM education and research. It is therefore critical for scientists and science communicators to continually reflect on the impacts of language on engagement, research, mentoring, collaboration, and teaching.

Sessions within this theme might address, but are not limited to: The importance of interrogating terms used in STEMM disciplines; multilingual science communication; strategies for rethinking and replacing harmful scientific terminology; approaches for adopting inclusive language practices at various scales (e.g., individual, institutional, community); the importance of multilingual approaches to research (i.e., the production of science, not only the communication of science); countering ableist language, or collectively navigating understanding of terms that have different colloquial and technical uses.

2. Promising Practices for Measuring Success and Outcomes

Science communication can have a wide range of societal benefits, but it can be hard to quantify those benefits or the effectiveness of specific approaches.

Without evaluation, we cannot identify successful practices or make informed decisions on how to improve or change the way we communicate. This is further complicated by typical expectations, which are often dependent on traditional measures of success and may be misaligned with project goals or more expansive, equitable definitions of success. Often, evaluation of science communication effectiveness focuses on metrics such as numbers of participants or post-event surveys that measure items like self-efficacy. These are relatively easy and inexpensive ways to measure impact, but they don’t demonstrate how engagement translates to, for example, relationships or action. Many science communicators lack either the resources to invest in more time-consuming and costly evaluation approaches or examples of a more substantive approach to measuring outcomes. Sometimes the easier road is taken because it is what supervisors or funders have requested. This theme will interrogate how we define and evaluate “success” in achieving effective and inclusive science communication, and how we can apply new approaches to evaluation to gain a more contextualized and equitable understanding of our impacts.

Sessions within this theme might address, but are not limited to: novel and/or collaborative approaches for assessing impacts of science communication; how to identify and evaluate goals; what constitutes a “successful” outcome; engaging communities in identifying how their priorities and values are reflected in evaluation; building capacity within communities to lead or co-develop evaluation; how funders are rethinking their evaluation criteria; how to convince gatekeepers (supervisors, funders, etc.) that different approaches to evaluation could be more meaningful; or new measures to understand societal impacts of science communication beyond institutional or program-specific impacts. 

3: Building Trust and Relationships

It takes time, care, and intention to build and sustain relationships based on trust.

For many people, historical and present-day inequities and injustices in scientific research raise concerns, hesitations, or outright contempt for STEMM. In addition, hyper-partisan public discourse, as well as prevalence of mis- and disinformation, complicates efforts to engage in conversations about STEMM topics. These challenges reflect the need for science communication practitioners and researchers to recognize potentially exploitative or extractive interactions and proactively build trust and relationships. In addition, building trust can lead to adoption of new, beneficial behaviors. This theme will explore the many ways we can build relationships and support communities with science communication practice, research, and training, to avoid extractive or tokenizing “outreach.”

Sessions within this theme might address, but are not limited to: Strategies for building and sustaining trust; strategies for authentic and reciprocal engagement; effective practices for equitable community engagement; inclusive approaches for addressing misinformation; models for science communication training that advances these skill sets; methods of science communication and engagement that connect with communities or populations who do not regularly consume STEMM content; and how funders can facilitate trust- and relationship-building in science communication.