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This panel says, on chickens and science communication. There is an image of a chicken shape that is made up of different kinds of graphs. The chicken's body is a round radial graph. The chicken's head is a circular pie chart. The chicken's beak is an orange circular pie chart with a slice missing. The chicken's legs are made up of a bar graph, with two tall bars representing the legs and shorter bars representing the toes.

On Chickens and Scientific Communication

As the old saying goes, “Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime.”

I don’t eat fish, so let’s go with something that is frequently consumed in my house: chicken nuggets. Or, as the new saying goes, “Buy a bag of frozen chicken nuggets, and my kid eats for a week. Teach me how to raise, process, and deep fry chickens and, although I might be better prepared for an apocalypse, I’m not going to make my own nuggets because it’s time-consuming, messy, and my home owners’ association prohibits live poultry.”

For all of us, it makes sense to learn to do certain tasks and to outsource others. Collectively, my family knows how to mend clothing, do taxes, and mow the lawn. We outsource making chicken nuggets, building furniture, and filming cute videos about inter-species friendships. Your mix probably looks different. You might raise chickens and film them incubating kittens while paying for an accountant and a lawn service.

I’ve noticed that many prominent science communicators are in the teaching business. They publish books, facilitate workshops, write newsletters, and administer networking groups. And that’s awesome! It’s important for current and aspiring scicomm professionals to have quality resources for skill building. But, that is not going to be the right route for everyone.

Some scientists don’t know a ton about scicomm, but they are experts in something else that’s really important, like treating lung cancer or doing ethnographies in marginalized communities or programming complex statistical models. Even if they had the time to hone their scicomm skills, society might be better served by them focusing on their current area of expertise…the things that they do better than almost anyone else.

Here at Data Soapbox, we spend most of our time working with clients directly on their scicomm products, like reports and presentations.* We start off by learning about a client’s vision and goals, as well as their design preferences and requirements. We develop drafts based on these initial conversations, and then we collaborate to create a final product that the client is proud to show off. This direct service model frees up client bandwidth for the scientific and administrative work that can’t be outsourced.

Are you a researcher who needs direct support with developing communication products? We’d love to help! Contact us here.

*That being said, if you want to take the learning approach to scicomm, Data Soapbox does offer in-person and virtual workshops. Topics include data visualization, scientific presentations, scientific posters, evaluation reporting, infographics, and science storytelling. Contact us to learn more about our workshop offerings.

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