Science Writing and Its Perspectives

classroom with desk and window

The program of SciCommers is a new trend that allows engineers and scientists to improve their writing communication skills. It has recently moved from NPR to COM.

About Its History

Joe Palca, a creator of the program, got an idea of it when he was a psychology Ph.D. student at the University of California. Unlike other students, he didn’t want to continue his research career. That is why he chose to take up science journalism.
To do that, he joined the CBS department in Washington, D.C. and soon became a news editor at ‘Nature.’ After that, he continued his career in journalism by becoming a leading correspondent in ‘Science’. The magazine is famous for its unique and always updated publications.
Then, in 1992, Palca decided to take up radio journalism and joined NPR. He is still working there nowadays.
His ambition was to show scientists as real people with their everyday work and within and beyond the science process. That is why Joe set up the series ‘Joe’s Big Idea’ for this purpose. He considers scientists’ motivations and the appearance of ideas rather than the results of scientific research.
Another ambition of Palca’s was to create a series of programs for students and researchers who, like him, didn’t want to spend hours on academic writing research. The main aim was to help them decide what to do next if they didn’t know how to continue.

The Appearance of NPR Scicommers

The initial name was ‘Friends of Joe’s Big Idea’. The program was created together with Maddie Sofia, an NPR producer, in 2017. This program is free. It’s meant to help engineers, scientists, postgraduate, undergraduate, and graduate students and faculty to improve their communication skills. Palca and Sofia have created it in a way that helps its members promote their ideas for articles and get feedback from an expert editor.

Since the program was launched, Scicommers’ members have created more than 100 stories that have become well-appreciated publications in Nox, Scientific American, Popular Science, and other academic sources.
The series of mentor chats were also started to discuss various parts of science communication. It involves such topics as science podcasting and freelance writing.
Scicommers also provide peer support via above 12 channels by using Slack. The topics discussed here include freelancing, jobs, fellowships, and STEM inclusion.
Scicommers has constantly been growing. By now, it involves above 2,000 members instead of 100 ones who were enrolled in the program initially.

A New Page at COM Has Started

Two years ago, Palca decided to look for a new educational space for Scicommers’ NPR. He needed a special grant for that. The aim was to promote science communication further. This should become a common activity instead of something unimportant and disregarded. The College of Communication of BU was the right destination for the program. So, in November 2021, it moved to COM. The rebranding was performed, and now the program is called SciCommers using the uppercase C.
However, the basic part of the program remains the same. The focus was on improving communication skills and getting students’ works published in the most popular editions. Palca highlights that to become a member of the program, a student does not have to belong to BU. He wants to make participation as diverse as it can be achieved under current conditions.
Palca is still working as an NPR correspondent, but he plans to continue with his program and spend more time on it.

Final Thoughts

The global network of researchers has been created within SciCommers. You can join the program if you need to improve your academic writing skills and learn how to deal with societal challenges. The goal is complex, but the program is likely to cope with it successfully.