Lisa CucharaLisa Cuchara
Professor of biomedical sciences
Department of Biomedical Sciences, School of Health Science

How to communicate scientific findings effectively to the public
There is a recognized need for scientists/health professionals to effectively communicate science to the public. This project involved taking the "Citizen Scientist" goal from the passive world of discussion boards to the public, interactive, dynamic Web 2.0 arena. Responsible Citizenship is defined as "an ability to recognize, analyze and influence decisions and actions at the local, national and global community, and to engage as responsible citizens." The need to create responsible citizens is inherent in all disciplines, but there is a growing movement to encourage effective communication of science to laypeople. We are trained as scientists and healthcare workers to communicate with each other, to present at conferences and to publish detailed scientific articles, but rarely trained in how to communicate with the general public. Presidential science adviser John Holdren suggested "that everybody in the science and technology community who cares about the future of the world should be tithing 10% of their time to interacting with the public." Randy Olson said that the goal is not for scientists to stop being scientists, but to pay more attention to what they say and how they can say it best, without the jargon.

Students created public service announcement videos about vaccines. These videos are examples of higher order Bloom's taxonomy outcomes and yield more "citizen scientists." The students also learned about vaccines and vaccine preventable diseases as well as myths related to vaccines in a manner that promoted higher level thinking and retention as a result of the creation process. This enhanced learning of the topics was a result of the constructivism learning philosophy ("humans can understand only what they have themselves constructed").

Constructivism learning involves avoiding the internalization of factoids only to be regurgitated later on and emphasizes learning as result of individual mental construction via the establishment of meaningful connections. A wonderful "side effect" was that the project also allowed for mastery of technology, as the students learned how to use Camtasia, YouTube, Animate, flip cameras taking video, and video editing for educational purposes.

Conference Presentations

  • Cuchara L. 2010. "Infectious" Discussion Boards as a Means of Formulating Fact Based Opinions About Scientific Progress and Communicating Scientific Findings With the Public. American Society of Microbiology Conference for Undergraduate Educators, May 2010.
  • Cuchara, L. 2010. Creating Videos and Public Service Announcements as a Means of Promoting Student Engagement, Developing Critical Thinking Skills and Creating Citizen Scientists. Regional American Society of Microbiology meeting, October, 2011. (presentation and session organizer)
  • Cuchara, L. 2012. Creating Videos and Public Service Announcements as a Means of Promoting Student Engagement, Developing Critical Thinking Skills and Creating Citizen Scientists. Pedagogy Session. America Society of Microbiology conference for undergraduate educators, June, 2012.

Back to top