We recently held an Innovation Workshop for the 2011 Google Science Communication Fellows, a group of early to mid-career PhD scientists chosen for their leadership in climate change research and communication. The Fellows spent three days together alongside Googlers and external experts at the Googleplex in Mountain View, Calif. exploring the potential of information technology and social media to spur public engagement.
All 21 of the 2011 Fellows are experienced science communicators, trained in using traditional media to bridge the gap between complex science and the general public. This workshop was an opportunity for them to explore new media communications optimized for the age of the web; or, as as I like to say, learning how to “web” the gap between the science community and the larger world in the digital age.
We organized the workshop around three themes:
- Understanding the public. This session introduced trending tools— like search,Google Trends and Correlate—that can be used to gather data from search queries and online discussions. If you’re curious, watch Google user experience researcher, Dan Russel, give the Fellows a 101 on how people search, and what they’re looking for.
- Documenting your science story. Here, the Fellows played around with Google Earth, Fusion Tables and YouTube to learn how to create interactive and engaging stories with science data, which could then be shared with a broad audience. For more on this, visit the Science Communications Fellows talks page on YouTube.
- Joining the conversation. In this session, Googler Chris Messina, a developer advocate, took the Fellows on a journey into the social web, illustrating by examples the power of the crowd in shaping ideas and building understanding across diverse social networks. You can view Chris’s outstanding talk here.
Several external experts participated in the workshop as well, including Andy Revkin, Dot Earth blogger and senior fellow of environmental understanding at Pace University. Andy gave a thought-provoking keynote the first evening, which also included a self-composed ditty about the fossil age (look out Schoolhouse Rock!).
Armed with new knowledge on “webbing the gap,” the Fellows are now developing project proposals to put what they learned into practice. Proposal selections will be made later this summer. You can learn more about tools for science communication in the digital age and the innovation workshop at our site here. Stay tuned for future opportunities for participating in this program.