Speaking Science Conference 2020

Speaking Science:
Communicating with Media, Funders,
Policymakers, and the Public

Thursday, January 16, 2020
Coffman Memorial Union
300 Washington Ave. SE, Minneapolis

Land-grant research universities like ours were created to share knowledge with the broader community. It is part of our mission and something we all care deeply about. For scientists and researchers, that call to communicate has taken on special resonance in recent years as debates about vaccines, evolution and climate change point to a divergence between scientific consensus and public opinion.

Speaking Science is a science communication conference designed to help scientists, engineers, and other researchers develop stronger storytelling skills that will make their work understandable and compelling to the media, thought leaders, potential funders and general audiences. The conference is specifically designed to provide faculty, post-docs and graduate students across the University of Minnesota with a unique opportunity to learn how to better communicate their science to audiences beyond the academic community.

The one-day conference will feature special guests including President Joan Gabel, an all-star media panel, a keynote speech by national best-selling author of Lab Girl and award-winning scientist Hope Jahren. The afternoon is focused on in-depth interactive trainings, and break-out sessions that include mock interviews with local journalists that will provide participants with invaluable feedback about how to frame their research in the most compelling way possible.

Registration begins Nov. 20-Dec. 6th for sponsoring colleges. The University-wide community will have access to any remaining tickets on Dec. 9th at 8 a.m.

What You Will Learn

In interactive and small-group sessions, you will explore and understand the techniques of effectively telling the story about the impact of your research.

Build Your Storytelling Toolkit

  • Identify your “big idea.”
  • Transform technical language into accessible information.
  • Talk about your research by telling stories that everyone will understand.

Focus Your Message

  • Determine the purpose in telling your story.
  • Clarify the action you would like people to take after hearing your story.
  • Discover new ways to craft your message to engage your audience.
  • Develop a short, understandable summary of your research.

Define Your Audience

  • Find and define your audience.
  • Determine where to tell your story.
  • Discover what stories resonate with various audiences.
  • Build a plan for promoting your research.

Keynote Speaker: Hope Jahren

Hope Jahren is an award-winning scientist who has been pursuing independent research in paleobiology since 1996, when she completed her PhD at University of California Berkeley and began teaching and researching first at the Georgia Institute of Technology and then at Johns Hopkins University. Before that, she grew up in Austin, Minnesota and attended the University of Minnesota for her undergraduate degree. She is the recipient of three Fulbright Awards and is one of four scientists, and the only woman, to have been awarded both of the Young Investigator Medals given within the Earth Sciences. She was a tenured professor at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu from 2008 to 2016, where she built the Isotope Geobiology Laboratories, with support from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health. She currently holds the J. Tuzo Wilson professorship at the University of Oslo, Norway.

She is also the author of that national best-seller, Lab Girl and has a new book coming out in March, The Story of More which chronicles the last 50 years of her life, our collective past during this time period and how the planet might be feeling about the mess we have made with our over consumption.

Afternoon Training Sessions

We will be adding more sessions as they are confirmed. Stay tuned!

Interacting with the Media
You have interesting stories to share — stories that can help make the world a better place. And journalists can help you share your story, especially if you help them do their jobs. In this popular Boreas workshop, you’ll get to meet, conduct mock interviews with and learn from local and national journalists. Learn how to pitch stories and give a great interview.

Social Media Savvy with Alie Caldwell
Social media may seem like the last place a scientist should spend their time, but being online as a trainee and researcher can have a lot of unexpected benefits. By getting involved in the online science and outreach community, Alie has discovered a whole world of professional development opportunities – while having a ton of fun engaging with other scientists and non-scientists alike. Learn how to get started on social media, tips on building a network and getting the most out of the platform, and get started creating your own content.

Presenter Bio: Alison (Alie) Caldwell received her BS from MIT in 2011 and her PhD in Neurosciences from UC San Diego in 2019. She is the inaugural Bigelow Science Communication Fellow at UC San Diego, working with three different science media departments to develop new interdisciplinary, multimedia approaches for communicating the exciting research being done by university scientists.  She is also the co-creator, writer and co-host of Neuro Transmissions, an award-winning YouTube channel all about the brain, and a member of the Leadership Team of ComSciCon, a national workshop series aimed at providing STEM graduate students with the tools and resources they need to communicate their science effectively across a wide variety of arenas and platforms.

Establishing Shared Values with Doug Cloud
Central to good science communication is finding common ground with your intended audience(s). Learn how to find and establish shared values with even the most skeptical audiences.

Presenter Bio: Dr. Doug Cloud is an Assistant Professor of English at Colorado State University, where he teaches courses in rhetorical theory, style, public writing, and argument. His research focuses on the rhetoric of social change, identity, and human rights. His current project tackles the construction of the category scientist in public deliberation about anthropogenic global warming.

Speaking to Industry Audiences
Industry audiences and contacts have different expectations for research than do traditional research funders. Learn what to expect and how to frame your work so that you and potential partners from business and industry can be on the same page.

Reception Information

The Speaking Science reception will be held from 5-7 p.m. at the Weisman Art Museum (WAM). Reception guests will have private access to the Museum’s collections. Live music by the Broken Heartland String Band will have you dancing, or at the very least, tapping your feet.






Visual Notes

Created by our graphic recorder extraordinaire Amy Sparks who will be returning to Speaking Science again this year


Sponsoring colleges and units have advance access to tickets on November 15th. Tickets will become available to the greater University of Minnesota community on Dec. 1. Registration is limited to graduate students, post-docs, faculty and staff members at the University of Minnesota.

Want to be the first to know? Join our mailing list.

Faculty, staff researchers and post-docs

Advance tickets for co-sponsoring colleges and units – $65

Regular price tickets – $80 (after Dec. 6)

Graduate Students

Advance tickets for co-sponsoring colleges and units – $35

Regular price tickets – $45 (after Dec. 6)

No. This event is tailored specifically for graduate/professional students, staff members, post-docs and faculty members from the University of Minnesota and our special guests from the media.

Graduate and professional student participants do not receive academic credit for Boreas short courses or workshops. You can earn a Boreas certificate, though, and include your participation and skills development as part of your resumes, CV or portfolio.

Participating in the full-day conference fulfills all the workshops required by the Communications and Media portion of the certificate.

The session on better presentations and communicating with the media were excellent. We got so many new ideas and actual strategies out of the event. Honestly, I felt like my professional communication skills actually improved from the beginning of the day to the end! It was one of the best trainings/events I have been to in my career.

Dr. Jennifer Hall-Lande