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PSCI-COM  March 2012

PSCI-COM March 2012

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Subject:

Re: Sci-com and the PhD

From:

Alice Bell <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

psci-com: on public engagement with science

Date:

Sun, 11 Mar 2012 14:20:58 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

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I'm one of those rare people with a PhD in science communication (Imperial 2008, on the politics of kids science books, funded by AHRC). 

I got lots out if it and it's an experience I'd recommend to many other people. I wouldn't, however, reccomend it as a way to get on in professional science communication. 

My ability to do and think about science communication was helped by the PhD, but not in any way that I couldn't have found in other ways (e.g. work experience, doing the Imperial MSc, generally being inquisitive and thoughtful about science in society issues). I can think of several people without any degree whose views on sci com I rate very highly. The PhD gave me some good tranferable skills, was fun and let me explore an issue I cared about in detail. As did the BSc (thanks Jon). Still, I think my ability to do and understand science communication in a more practically applicable way comes more from teaching general sci com courses and having worked quite broadly in the field since my teens, as well as simply being nosy about what other people do - listening, talking to and asking questions of other professionals. 

If you want to be successful in sci com you need to learn about it. Critically consume others' work and question your own work, pushing yourself to be as good as you can (reflecting for yourself what "good" might be in that particular context). You can find opportunities for this in work experience and various forms of postgraduate work, but precisly how you do this and how you demonstrate it to future employers really is up to you.

Alice 
 

----------

Dr Alice Bell

http://alicerosebell.wordpress.com

On 11 Mar 2012, at 13:16, Oli Usher <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> A PhD in science communication is probably interesting and useful, but I don't think I know anyone working in sci com (as opposed to a sci com academic) who has one, and have never seen a job advert which requires one.
> 
> A PhD in a science is probably not much use day-to-day in most sci com jobs, because 99% of the time you won't be communicating anything relevant to your PhD. Broad knowledge is much more useful than deep knowledge, and I think in most cases a relevant undergrad degree is better at delivering that.
> 
> A background in academic research is actively harmful a lot of the time - there's nothing like a few extra years in academia to kill your writing style and to narrow your view of what the relevant context of what you're communicating is. If you've seen press releases full of passive constructions and obscure caveats up in the lede, you'll know what I'm talking about.
> 
> However, sci com jobs are often in the gift of scientists, and a PhD would certainly impress or reassure many an interview committee.
> 
> Full disclosure - I don't have a PhD and I came to science communication from studying history and philosophy of science, so a) my career path is a bit unusual and b) I'm probably biased :)
> 
> Cheers,
> 
> Oli
> 
> 
> On 10/03/2012 10:12, Matt Templar wrote:
>> Hello,
>> 
>> It seems that these days, everyone has a bachelors degree. How important therefore do you feel having a PhD is in science communication? Does it open doors and create opportunities that otherwise wouldn't exist? I'd be really grateful to hear your responses. I suspect that these sorts of questions are on the minds of many others who, like myself, are at an early stage in their careers.
>> 
>> The reason I ask is that, as a recent science graduate, I already know that I don't want to work in research long-term but rather see myself in science communication. However, when browsing various science communication roles, it seems to me that the most prestigious or senior roles (and sometimes most exciting) are occupied by Dr xyz. I only have a Bachelor's degree (a good one, in biology) - will this put me at a significant disadvantage vs. PhD-holders? In order not to exclude myself from the better roles, I would be prepared to apply for and complete a PhD. But is this really necessary? Perhaps I have an inaccurate picture of the sci-com sector?
>> 
>> I suppose you might say the the answer depends on what area of science communication I see myself in? Unfortunately it's difficult for me to say exactly what I want to do at this stage. I do really enjoy communicating complex science to non-specialists (both through the written word and verbally) and teaching/advising, interacting with people. I could see myself working in the media/science charities/learned societies etc etc.
>> 
>> It would be really great to have your thoughts, particularly from the more experienced/senior science communicators amongst you - in what circumstances would you employ someone who holds a PhD over someone who doesn't? What sci-com roles have an absolute requirement for a PhD?
>> 
>> Thanks a lot,
>> Matt
>> 
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> 
> -- 
> Oli Usher
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You may also change your settings and subscribe/unsubscribe to psci-com from the web site.

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It adheres to the JISCMail Acceptable Use Policy: http://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/policyandsecurity/acceptableuse.html
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