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Communicating Science

Photo of a USFWS employee leading a guided tour in nature

One of the greatest obstacles to opening up hearts and minds to the conservation challenges of the 21st Century is speaking in a language that can connect with broad audiences. The resources below have been curated by Oregon Fish and Wildlife biologist, Janine Castro, who has spent a career helping the science-minded connect with audiences of all knowledge levels.

  • Speaking of Science - Stepping out of the stereotype

    In this video, Janine provides an overview of her lengthier public speaking workshop. If you are wondering what the workshop entails, this will give you a nice sampling.
    View the video on YouTube



    Web Resources for Communicating Science

    Scientifically Speaking: Tips for Preparing and Delivering Scientific Talks and Using Visual Aids - The Oceanography Society

    Center for Communicating Science: The Center for Communicating Science works to enhance understanding of science by helping train the next generation of scientists and health professionals to communicate more effectively with the public, public officials, the media, and others outside their own discipline. - Stony Brook University

    Technically Speaking: A Guide for Communicating Complex Information. Jan D’Arcy’s Presentation Skills Book

    Allyn and Bacon Public Speaking Website: Website contains six modules that you can use along with your textbook to learn about the process of public speaking and to help you prepare your talks.

    Power Public Speaking Training: Public speaking and presentation skills.

    Toastmasters International: Communication and leadership development



    Blogs and Other Media

    American Geophysical Union, The Plainspoken Scientist: With this blog, we at AGU wish to encourage scientists to reach out to the public and to do so with plainspoken discussion.

    Communicatalyst: Speaking about Science...the blog about how to communicate scientific concepts to the public, and to other scientists, and about why we should care.

    The Speaking Scientist: Presentation tips, techniques, and advice for scientists and engineers.

    What to Do with Your Hands When You Speak. Body language experts help you better understand the right and wrong ways to use your hands when you're speaking in front of a crowd.


    Public Speaking Books for Scientists


    Anholt, R.R. 2006. Dazzle ‘em with Style: The Art of Oral Scientific Presentation, 2nd Ed. Elsevier Academic Press. (Allison Coffin’s personal favorite!) Preview the book at Amazon

    Asher, J. 2001. Even a Geek Can Speak -- low-tech presentation skills for high-tech people. Longstreet Press, Inc. Marietta, GA. (Written for the high-tech industry, but very useful when you are trying to convey a complex idea to a broader audience. Includes worksheets.

    Baron, N. 2010. Escape from the Ivory Tower: Your Guide to Making Your Science Matter. Island Press.

    Chambers, H.E. 2001. Effective Communication Skills for Scientific and Technical Professionals. Perseus Publishing.

    Dean, C. 2009. Am I Making Myself Clear?  A Scientist’s Guide to Talking to the Public. Harvard University Press.

    Fripp, J., M. Fripp, and D. Fripp. 2000. Speaking of Science – notable quotes on science, engineering, and the environment. LLH Technology Publishing, Eagle Rock, Virginia. (If you’re looking for an excellent quote for scientists.)

    Kenny, P. 1998. A Handbook of Public Speaking for Scientists & Engineers. Institute of Physics Publishing.

    Morgan, S. and B. Whitener 2006. Speaking About Science: A Manual for Creating Clear Presentations. Cambridge University Press. (Great help for visual aids)

    Olson, R. 2009. Don’t Be Such A Scientist – talking substance in the age of style. Island Press, Washington. (Scientist becomes filmmaker. A huge wake-up call that not only do we need to DO good science, we also need to COMMUNICATE good science.)

    Walters, D.E. and G.C. Walters. 2011. Scientists Must Speak, second edition. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL. (A book in two parts – preparation and delivery. A solid review of public speaking fundamentals specifically for scientists.)



    General Public Speaking Books

    Ailes, R. 1988. You are the Message – getting what you want by being who you are. Currency Doubleday, New York. (“Take responsibility for the communication you send and the communication you receive…Be a proactive—not a reactive—communicator.” Deliver your message using instinct, charisma, and energy.)

    Berkun, S. 2010. Confessions of a Public Speaker. O’Reilly Media, Inc. Sebastopol, California. (Janine Castro’s personal favorite! Great for somewhat seasoned speakers who want to improve their skills.  Wonderful section at the back about dealing with a variety of difficult situations – like when the audience hates you…) Preview the book at Amazon

    Bowden, M. 2010. Winning Body Language – control the conversation, command attention, and convey the right message – without saying a single word. McGraw Hill, New York. (Excellent primer on body language that is useful everywhere and with everyone. Beware, you might be tempted to read the entire book in one sitting!)

    Carpenter, R.H. 1999. Choosing Powerful Words: Eloquence that Works.  Allyn and Bacon, Needham Heights, MA.

    Detz, J. 2000. It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It. St. Martin’s Griffen, New York. (Introductory book on public speaking.  The author provides a nice checklist.)

    Filson, B. 1994. Executive Speeches: Tips on How to Write and Deliver Speeches from 51 CEOs.  John Wiley & Sons, Inc.  New York, NY.

    Frank, M.O. 1986. How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less.  Pocket Books, New York, NY.

    Gilman, A.D. and K.E. Berg 1995. Get to the Point: How to Say What You Mean and Get What You Want.  Kendall/Hunt Publishing, Dubuque, IA.

    Heinrichs, J. 2007. Thank You for Arguing – what Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson can teach us about the art of persuasion. Three Rivers Press, New York. (Fabulous introduction to rhetoric through quotes by famous and infamous people, including a section on learning decorum from Eminem.  Check out Jay Heinrichs’s web page.)

    Heinrichs, J. 2011. Word Hero – a fiendishly clever guide to crafting the lines that get laughs, go viral, and live forever. Three Rivers Press, New York. (An excellent resource for experienced speakers who are looking to refine their art with memorable quips and sound bites. Great examples from Doctor Seuss to Yogi Berra)

    Humes, J. 2002. Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln – 21 powerful secrets of history’s greatest speakers. Prima Publishing, Roseville, California. (The focus is on leading through speaking from an experienced presidential speech writer.)

    Morgan, N. 2007. Giving Presentations. Harvard Business School Press, Pocket Mentor, Boston, MA. (Short book with reminders and checklists)

    Wilder, C. and J. Rotondo 2002. Point, Click & Wow! A Quick Guide to Brilliant Laptop Presentations.  Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer, San Francisco, CA.



    Speaking Tips

    Speaking Tips Checklist
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