Ellen Kuwana

A Career Path to Science Communication Writing

04/21/2023
By Ellen Kuwana

Communicating your work clearly and effectively through writing benefits everyone. Clear writing shows concise thinking, illuminating information, and opportunities for action. If you’re writing for science or looking to transfer those writing skills to a new career, check out our February 2023 webinar, led by Ellen Kuwana.

How to Become a Science Communicator

Many science communication (SciComm) professionals start out on a common pathway to this career, first working in STEM, journalism, communications, or English. Beginning and mid-career writers interested in getting more experience can also apply for a wide variety of science internships and fellowships, such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science Mass Media Science & Engineering Fellowship and the Knight Science Journalism fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Careers

The career paths are limitless! Kuwana shares the pros and cons of the top industries that require SciComm, and her guidance can help you discover what might be the best fit for you at this point in your life.

The Basics of Writing

Before you begin writing a piece, start with an outline. Jot down your main points, and fill in the subpoints—the ideas or facts that support your main ideas—with supporting information. Limit your research, or it will encroach on your writing time. As much as you want to dive into all the details, you should first take a moment to step back and focus on what relates back to your main theme or themes.

Kuwana offers the following recommendations:

  • Make sure that your paragraphs are not too long but that they include at least two sentences.
  • Use transition words, which will help your writing flow.
  • Try to keep an active voice because it is more direct.
  • Use voice dictation or voice memos to help capture your thoughts in a given moment.

Tools to Improve Your Writing

If you’re looking to improve your writing, consider these tips:

  • Read your work out loud.
  • Use Grammarly to edit your work.
  • Use adverbs sparingly and divide complex sentences into two.
  • Be specific when you are asking for help.
  • Form a science writing group to gain advice and to provide help to peers.
  • Find a mentor who will help guide you in your writing and career.
  • Read more books!

Pros and Cons of Different Career Sectors

Academia: more time to write, poor job stability. Better benefits, less pressure but bureaucracy/slow page (Ivory Tower), often solo communications person

Industry: better pay, fast turnaround, less creative freedom

Government: stable employment, steady advancement in career, good benefits

Healthcare Organizations: good pay, bureaucracy

Journalism: low pay, fast pace, colleagues/team, editors

Agency: better pay, fast pace, pressure, competitive, client-facing

Freelance: flexibility, choose who you work with, lack of stability, lack of benefits

Ellen Kuwana provided great insights into publishing opportunities, professional science communication organizations, interviewing tips, and more! She shared resources and book recommendations with attendees. AWIS members can watch the full webinar and access those resources here. Become a member to enjoy this benefit and more!

Ellen Kuwana is a freelance scientific editor and a trained scientist with more than ten years of basic, clinical, and translational research experience. Her areas of expertise include neuroscience, molecular biology, cancer biology, and bioethics, and her transition from academia to industry led her to an entrepreneurial role as a science communicator.

 

This article was originally published in AWIS Magazine. Join AWIS to access the full issue of AWIS Magazine and more member benefits.