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Teaching Students How to Talk Science

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Cornell students learn a lot of science at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Human Ecology. But do they know how to talk effectively about what they know?

For the fall 2017 semester, Undergraduate Life Sciences Librarian Kelee Pacion joined forces with Mark Sarvary of the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior and Kitty Gifford, marketing communications professional and program director of Science Cabaret, to create the course “Introduction to Applied Science Communication: Digital Platforms and Public Engagement” (aka BIOG3500). Taking a user-centered approach, this class is aiming to bridge the curricular gap in translating science to the public. As part of the course, students are creating a communication plan and engaging a variety of social media platforms to share scientific information.

As a librarian, Ms. Pacion is bringing a powerful skill set to the teaching team for this course. In the digital age, libraries have become dynamic crossroads for the exchange of information in all its forms. Librarians are your resident experts—call us traffic guides, or maybe even co-pilots—in getting people steered in the right direction for the quality information they need. We have deep training and lots of experience in helping students navigate the sometimes surprisingly tricky shoals of finding, vetting and synthesizing information for a high-quality research project. This puts us in a great position to help make sure that students can be confident about the information they are using for their work—so they can step boldly into the role of being a well-informed science communicators. “Science is not finished until it is communicated,” says Sir Mark Walport, the Chief Scientific Adviser to the U.K. government—a statement that Pacion, Sarvary and Gifford have adopted as their course motto. Mann Library is happy to be doing its part to make sure that Cornell students have what they need to finish the job.

For more information about the new course BIOG3500 please see the recent Cornell Chronicle article.