One of the reasons why I did all the extra-curriculum activities outside my PhD, is because I do not wish to stay in academia once I finish my PhD. As I started applying for jobs, I pleasingly noticed that my CV is suitable for jobs I never thought I could apply for with a PhD in Chemistry.
As part of my PhD training I did loads of science communication and I initially thought that my job would be there. Unfortunately, with time, I got a bit delusional with science communication because I have been really struggling to reach a wide audience. Through my Instagram page and the wide range of events I was involved, I noticed that the audience was mainly scientists or people who are somehow related to it. So, what’s the point of doing science communication to people that are already interested in science and make informed and educated decisions already?
I got a bit delusional with science communication because I have been really struggling to reach a wide audience.
Despite the initial disappointment, I still believe that all the experience I gained during my PhD is valuable and transferrable to other jobs. Excellent and outstanding written and verbal communication skills are a requirement for any job than I would like to take in the future. Additionally and personally speaking, I think that doing a job in science communication only would mean leaving behind some of the strong assets that I gained over the last few years: the advocacy and social influence.
At the end of last month, I went down to London for a workshop in science policy. The event was totally organised by students who wish to empower fellow scientists to take the leap and explore different career options outside academia or more traditional jobs for scientists. Most of them were heavily involved in science outreach during their PhD and saw science policy as a good option to make good use of their soft skills.
My advocacy and social influence would be perfect for a job in science. policy
In the morning session, 2 panels of scientists belonging to different organisations presented their work and how it is like to have a job in science policy. The most striking thing for me was the fact that a science policy job can be found even outside the government. In fact, loads of private organisation provide independent science reports and make recommendations concerning current and controversial scientific topics. All panellists highlighted the importance of some key skills to apply for such a job: communicating science to a non-specific audience, ability to summarise concepts, working with a big amount of data and information, surveying the scientific literature and analysing critically science information. All basic skills that we gain during the process of becoming scientists, by keeping our mind open and look beyond the small niche of our research.
The second part of the workshop and the one I enjoyed the most was about communicating your research through the press. This workshop made me realise how it is hard to do science communication on a professional level. It’s far more than communicating science to a lay audience. Why should people be bothered? What’s new and interesting in your research? Why should someone outside your field care? How to make sure that the press doesn’t twist the findings of your research? How to have an impact without using misleading and catchy headlines? Loads of food for thoughts which I still struggle to work out myself.
Going down to London was a good chance to catch up and meet up with fellow scicommers on Instagram. I met Nina from nina.draws.scientists, Mariam, Lauren and Julia. We all shared common thought about our science communication endeavour, the launch of our Etsy shops and what the future holds after #phdlife. The meet up was definitely the best part of the workshop, these girls and others that I met in the past became such strong support and motivation for my PhD. It is hard to find like-minded people who share similar interests and know exactly the struggle of doing a PhD in a male-dominated field.