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HQP Workshop 2015

HQP Workshop 2015: IMPROV-ing Science Communication

On July 22nd, BioFuelNet held a sold-out workshop in Montreal for HQP/grad students combining science communication techniques and improvisational theatre, which was a great kickoff to our Advanced Biofuels Symposium. The objective was to provide research scientists with the communication skills needed to better convey the importance and impact of their work to the general public

The workshop was was wildly successful, very interactive and lots of fun. The participants learned some very useful skills  The Montreal Gazette spent the day and wrote a fabulous article that was very prominantly featured. Check out what our crazy biofuels scientists were up to:

See the HQP workshop photos here.


An important responsibility for any scientist is sharing their passion for their work and its relevance to society. This means effectively communicating with the general public and the layperson. Public acceptance and understanding of science can influence government decisions related to regulation, science policy and funding, which can in turn have an important impact on scientific progress.

Scientists are well trained in their highly specialized fields of research and they often communicate with other experts. However, they often lack the training needed to effectively communicate science to the layperson/general public. Furthermore, as a scientist becomes increasingly expert in his/her field, the more far removed they become from the experience of encountering new concepts or terms.

When writing scientific abstracts and publications, grant applications or presenting at professional meetings, different language, form and structure must be used for each audience. The same is true when science communication with the public. The message and meaning does not have to change, just the language used to communicate.

In this workshop, we will tackle ways to better communicate science and research findings in writing, orally and using social media. Participants will also engage in fun and interactive improvisational exercises to learn to discuss their scientific research more spontaneously and directly with a general audience. The goal is also for the scientists to pay dynamic attention to their listeners and to connect personally with their audience.

See HQP Workshop speaker bios

Draft Agenda

Time Activity
7:30 am Registration and breakfast
8:15 am Introduction to improv for science communication
By Marc Rowland, Director at Montreal Improv
8:30 am
Improv workshop on communication #1
9:30 am
Exercise: So what do you do?
10:15 am Coffee break
10:45 am Writing about science
By Gabrielle Bauer, Award-winning medical writer, magazine writer, book author
12:00 pm Lunch
1:00 pm Presentation and discussion: Communicating science in business and selling an idea
By Drew Smylie, Coordinator of Programs and Professor, School of Business, Centennial College, Toronto
2:15 pm Coffee break
2:45 pm
Improv workshop on communication #2
3:45 pm Questions / discussion
4:30 pm Workshop close

Get involved!

Get your voice heard & use the hashtag #Shift2Biofuels15 and Twitter handle @BioFuelNet to live tweet, ask questions and comment on discussions during the Workshop.

Some background info:

Example of using Improvisation for Science Communication: “Attention, All Scientists: Do Improv, With Alan Alda’s Help”, The New York Times, March 2 2015

Why is scientific communication important?

What is improvisational theatre?

John Bohannon: Dance vs. powerpoint, a modest proposal