ENGIN 185 | Beyond Data: Scientific Writing for Non-Scientific Audiences

2021 Fall | Mon, Weds, Fri 10–11 am | COURSE #33081 | UNITS: 3

Mark Bauer & Shiyin Lim

The past year has shown that the need for clear science writing is stronger than ever. It has also underscored that the challenges of communicating scientific principles and findings lie not simply in the complexity of those ideas, but in audiences’ willingness and ability to listen.

How, then, can science writers offer compelling narratives about scientific and technological impacts amid the din of competing interests and outright misinformation? In this environment, science writing needs not just to be clear, but persuasive, and that requires writers to mobilize strategies that go well beyond the usual imperative to report and contextualize data.

This course seeks to develop a toolkit for writers who are looking to convince decision-makers about the need to incorporate research findings into their planning, and also to convince a broad audience of non-scientists about the importance of acting on them.

From mask mandates to climate policy, we’ll consider not only how to make our points effectively, but also how to account for other, often conflicting interests that audiences are weighing when thinking about how to prioritize scientific findings.

To achieve these goals, we’ll draw lessons from reading case studies and other works by experts in the field, and students will write a variety of pieces ranging from short summaries to longer academic research papers, all of which will be directed toward a publicly accessible website where we can put our insights into practice in real time.