Intercultural Science Communication Research and Training to Broaden Participation Among Historically Minoritized Science Practitioners

September 1st, 2021 - August 31st, 2026 | PROJECT

Among scientists, science communication is an increasingly important area of practice, scholarship, and research, especially with early career scientists. The growing interest in combating widespread disinformation and inaccurate public perception of science has increased demand for training in science communication; however, there is a significant gap in both research and training for scientists from diverse racial and ethnic cultural backgrounds. The project will address this knowledge and research gap by applying intercultural communication theory to the design, development, and testing of a new curriculum that will provide evidence-based methods to make science communication trainings inclusive and intersectional. The curriculum will be designed and evaluated to build capacity among science communication trainers and practitioners. Sixty pre-tenure environmental science faculty of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds will be trained in strategic science communication skills using cultural perspectives and academic goals in science communication. The project will gather research data in collaboration with the national SciComm Trainers Network. In addition to advancing science communication research, training, and practice, the project will implement a novel, peer-reviewed podcast for broader impact. The project Fellows will be prepared to engage in a wide range of science communication activities throughout their careers and lead related efforts at their home institutions. Following a final workshop to develop culturally responsive guidance for science communication trainers, the project team will share findings to the field to inform future practice and societal impacts from advancing culturally relevant science communication in training programs. This Innovations in Development project is funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which seeks to (a) advance new approaches to and evidence-based understanding of the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments; (b) provide multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences; (c) advance innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments; and (d) engage the public of all ages in learning STEM in informal environments.

The project will address two significant gaps in science communication and intercultural communication research. First, despite the recognition that more research about race and ethnicity is needed in science communication, few studies have been conducted. Second, while findings on intercultural communication research are consistent across fields, such as health communication and business communication, the research has yet to examine how well-established theories in this area of study apply to the unique norms and processes of science. Investigators will test a novel theoretical framework grounded in two intercultural communication theories: identity negotiation theory and communication accommodation theory. The project will test the extent to which the professional norms and processes of STEM and academia relate to cultural norms and communication styles of underrepresented racial and ethnic minority scientists, and how these factors influence their science communication efforts. The project will use a mixed methods approach including in-depth interviews and surveys. The results of the study will be used to develop and adapt culturally tailored science communication training for 60 pre-tenure environmental science faculty from underrepresented groups. The results of the project will provide evidence to make science communication training and practice more inclusive and effective. The collaboration with the national SciComm Trainers Network will ensure broad dissemination and professional application of project findings. The project will increase representation of racial and ethnic minority scientists as science communicators, including in environmental news coverage; provide a new peer-reviewed podcast series for public audiences that will introduce listeners to environmental research through a culturally responsive lens; provide tested methods for designing inclusive and effective science communication training curricula; and will inform faculty efforts to incorporate science communication activities as part of career advancement.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Team Members

Bruno Takahashi, Principal Investigator, Michigan State University
Sunshine Menezes, Principal Investigator, University of Rhode Island


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 2115522
Funding Amount: $351,498.00

Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 2115971
Funding Amount: $739,492.00


Access and Inclusion: Ethnic | Racial
Audience: General Public | Scientists
Discipline: Ecology | forestry | agriculture
Resource Type: Project Descriptions | Projects
Environment Type: Professional Development | Conferences | Networks | Professional Development and Workshops | Resource Centers and Networks

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This material is supported by National Science Foundation award DRL-2229061, with previous support under DRL-1612739, DRL-1842633, DRL-1212803, and DRL-0638981. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations contained within are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.

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