Origins of a Friday-morning “rabbit hole”: Can’t we make/let writing be easier?!
We’ve been hearing a lot of handwringing and concern about ChatGPT up-ending education. We’ve also been hearing a lot of innovative ideas about how to engage with ChatGPT as a teaching tool (which is, let’s be clear, mainly an effort to make sure ChatGPT doesn’t become the beginning and end of student work and writing).
Of all the approaches I’ve heard, the one that seems most straightforward is to have students use ChatGPT to generate first drafts. That would get developing writers past the daunting blank page, wrangle some initial thoughts into a form that can be refined and enhanced, etc., etc.
But, there’s been a thought tickling the back of my mind as I’ve listened to all these discussions, chatted a bit about it with colleagues, and even shared some commentaries with folks looking for perspectives: “Are we really only going to set up these frameworks of expectation and standards of use/engagement for students?”
Yes, there are already some cite-the-bot or attribute-co-authorship policies coming online.
But, I’m actually thinking more of our own writing, at our own keyboards.
Surely, even the writery writers among us would love to have that first draft be easier.
I’m co-teaching a graduate course called Science Career Next Steps this semester. It’s a new course we’re piloting, and I’m thrilled to be leading a specific mindset and work-life-harmony thread of the course. I’m also coming to the course as someone who didn’t start in academia and only recently considered an academic career as a viable option. So, I’ve spent a lot of time looking for insights and resources to help me navigate my own transition into academia.
Prepping for this week’s time-tracking workshop (woot! yes, I am actively enthusiastic about that kind of self-study), I ran across a set of advice and resources I compiled for graduate students a few years ago. I’ve updated them and shared them below, in case they are of any help to folks who are early-career or considering a career transition.
There are a number of possible approaches for making progress toward academic and professional goals that I’ve found useful at various stages in my own (often-rocky) transition into an academic career. I started out with a “yes to everything” workaholic approach. That became starkly unsustainable, and I’ve now spent years figuring out an approach that enables me to do meaningful work without crashing and burning. I’ve especially prioritized advice and perspectives that now help me stay focused on the work that I am passionate about: making the world a better place by facilitating change and capacity building in people and systems/organizations.
The perspectives below are derived from a host of sources. This means different approaches will work for different people, and/or your mileage may vary depending on project stages, life events, external circumstances, etc. By no means are these nuggets of insight the only advice, or even the best advice.** And, some of these approaches may be difficult or even counterproductive for some folks. However, they are some starting points into discourse and resources around these ideas. (Please share yours in the comments or on Twitter!)
If you’re looking for a starting point for understanding evidence-based, inclusive science communication, the literature about science communication can be overwhelming. This body of literature, sometimes known as the science of science communication, is actually a collection of disciplines that ranges from behavioral psychology to economics, and from writing studies to data visualization, and more.
The course bibliography I distribute in my undergraduate and graduate courses on science communication can be a helpful orientation to these bodies of literature and how you can apply them to a range of concepts and challenges inherent in science communication. The course bibliography is organized by topic area, following the three major modules in my course on Applied Principles of Science Communication:
Foundations of Science Communication
Science of SciComm 101
Connecting Science & Society
Understanding Interest Groups, Influencers, and Impacted Groups
I’ve been itching to share this news, and now I can: I’m writing a book I’ve been wanting to write for nearly a decade!!
I’m co-writing it with Stephen Heard. It’s been hard to keep this quiet for so long, but we’ve just signed a contract with the University of Chicago Press (UCP), so now it’s official. Hooray! 🥳
What’s the book about, you ask? Well, it’s not (technically) about science communication, and it’s not about art-science integration. (Maybe, 🤞🤞 I’ll write books on those topics someday!) Instead, this book is something I’ve been working on in the background, just not writing much about here on CommNatural.
The CommNatural audience (that’s you!) is pretty omnivorous in its interests, and many of you may not even be academics or involved with science. That’s okay. The key thing to know is that I work with, coach, teach, and consult with a lot of folks who find helping students (or other developing writers) write better is difficult, time-consuming, and frustrating. And Steve and I know these folks want help – they ask us for it. That’s where our book comes in.
Ever since I started training in writing pedagogy, I’ve recognized an opportunity to help folks deal with something our book tackles head-on. Our working title is Helping Students Write in the Sciences: Strategies for Efficient and Effective Mentoring of Developing Writers. Writing is a huge part of the job of a scientist, and it’s hard – but teaching and mentoring writing is too, and it’s harder.
Last year, I launched Meteor, a podcast, with friend, collaborator, and fellow dreamer-schemer Virginia Schutte. We just wrapped Season 2 a few weeks ago, and I am so pleased to have so much to share with you!
We started Meteor because we crave advanced-user conversations with other mid-career scicomm professionals (like us!). We intended to use Meteor to learn and grow together, and check each other when we need it. Our plan was to dig into things as wide-ranging as branding, projects that matter, privilege, and inclusive science communication, with actionable, tangible steps to level up.
I have been working in scicomm for over 20 years, and it’s like you areinside my head. ~Meteor listener
In the first ten episodes, we covered all sorts of topics. Here are a few of my favorites: