Fall and Winter Events Theme: Adapting to Pandemic

This image shows a screenshot of a workshop held on Zoom.  Eleven participants can be seen smiling and waving from their Zoom rectangles.
Center director Patty Raun facilitated a workshop for presenters at the Women and Gender in Development Conference to be held February 23. Screenshot courtesy of Ralph Hall.

Like the rest of Virginia Tech—and the world—the work of the Center for Communicating Science has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. For us it’s been an opportunity to think about connection, communication, and collaboration in a world in which teaching, business, and family get-togethers are conducted primarily through computer screens.

For example, in response to a workshop request from the graduate student association of the biomedical and veterinary sciences (BMVS) program, center director Patty Raun began thinking about movie production. The graduate researchers had asked for tips on presenting one’s research online, and Raun realized that there were some analogous challenges. Her workshop, titled “Communicating Your Research Online. . .Is Like Making Your Own Hollywood Blockbuster,” encouraged participants to think about five stages of digital or online creation: development, pre-production, production, post-production, and distribution.

Of course, many of the ideas that the center urges speakers to consider are the same no matter the format: Who is your audience? What are your goals and objectives? What is your message? How will you tell your story?

For an online presentation, speakers may also need to think in new ways about physical, budgetary, and time constraints. Plan ahead for optimizing lighting, sound, camera angle, and additional technical issues that can add to or detract from effective communication. If you’re recording your talk, you’ll have post-production work that might include video editing, adding animation and titles, and getting the talk close captioned.

The center has also provided other online workshops, presentations, and events over the past months, including

  • A visit to the graduate level Outreach in Biology course to introduce students to the center, talk about its mission, and provide information about outreach opportunities.
  • An online interactive communicating science workshop for 65 students in the Preparing the Future Professoriate class.
  • Workshops to two sections of a junior-level professionalism and technical communication seminar class in the biological systems engineering department.
  • A three-part series of workshops to the Remote Sensing Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program.
  • A workshop to help prepare participants for the Nutshell Games.
  • Our first-ever online Nutshell Games event, with more than 9,700 views of participants’ videos by the end of the year.
  • A workshop for the Unitarian Universalist congregation, “Connecting Across Differences: Imagining Others.”
  • Participation in the Office of Undergraduate Research panel “Mentoring Undergraduates in Research.”
  • A workshop for presenters in the February 23 Women and Gender in Development Conference (see VT News story here).

Science on Tap also moved online last April with an interview of Lindsey Marr and her graduate student Kaisen Lin, a video that has now garnered more than 700 views. Science on Tap events have remained online and included “Celebrating Black Scientists,” “Cycling Towards Healthier Communities,” “Building a Loving Relationship with Our Mental Health,” “Ha Ha! A Night of Comedy with Kasha Patel,” and “Embodying Emotional Connections to Science Through Theatre.”

We look forward to meeting in person in the future, but for now we’re having fun making connections in new environments!

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