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SBU's Alda Center launches Advanced Graduate Certificate in Communicating Science

Beginning in Spring 2020, the Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University will launch a program to teach future scientists to share their work effectively while they are still in graduate school

The program, an Advanced Graduate Certificate in Communicating Science, meets a growing need among scientists and society. It aims to empower clear communication and, in doing so, increase scientific literacy.

As scientific discoveries and information impact people of all ages and backgrounds around the world, scientific literacy is critical for healthy societies.

Scientists must be willing and able to share their work, clearly and vividly, with policymakers, other researchers, members of the media, and members of the general public. Yet very few scientists are trained to communicate their work, and its significance, from the start of their careers.

“Graduate-level education, particularly in science and medicine, is laser-focused on subject mastery. That’s vital; our nation’s researchers need the strong educations and backgrounds that will help them discover and apply new knowledge,” said Laura Lindenfeld, Ph.D., executive director of the Alda Center and interim dean of the SBU School of Journalism. “And our scientists and healthcare professionals need to be able to confidently and effectively make their discoveries relevant to others, including policymakers, the media, colleagues, and even friends and neighbors.

“That’s what this advanced graduate certificate will empower them to do.”

The academic program will build off of the Alda Center’s successes in training thousands of scientists, medical professionals, and other researchers over the past decade. The Center’s unique method of blending improvisational theater exercises and message-design strategies, informed by social-science research, has made its form of science communication training one of the most popular and well respected in the United States.

The certificate will be taught by many of the same Alda Center faculty that travel around the country and world, delivering one-to-three day experiential communication training programs to practicing scientists, researchers, and healthcare professionals. Government agencies, non-profit organizations, and many of the nation’s leading universities have worked with the Alda Center. Since the Center was founded 10 years ago, 15,000 researchers around the world have participated in the training programs.

“It’s so important for science and society that communication cease to be an after-thought,” Lindenfeld said. “We’re thrilled to be taking that first step at the Alda Center.”

The advanced graduate certificate program is among the first in the United States to educate student-scientists to focus on the act of communicating, rather than simply the content to be shared. 

Students may complete the certificate concurrently with a graduate degree or as a stand-alone credential. The 12-credit program can be completed in one year.

“In the past decade, the Alda Center has worked with some of the nation’s leading scientists, including Nobel Prize winners,” said Lindenfeld. “With this graduate certificate, we will be able to teach future scientists – and possibly future Nobel winners – learn to think about and engage in clear and vivid communication as they are learning their science.”

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