Saving the world, one scicomm text at a time: Liberal education and the art of science communication

Saving the world, one scicomm text at a time: Liberal education and the art of science communication

Author: Florentine Sterk – Utrecht University, Netherlands


  • Michael Burke – Utrecht University, Netherlands
  • Iris van der Tuin – Utrecht University, Netherlands
  • Merel van Goch – Utrecht University, Netherlands

My poster presentation will provide visual insights into science popularization skills that liberal education students at Liberal Arts and Sciences (Utrecht University) already possess at the start of their studies. Students wrote a short newspaper article suitable for a broad audience based on an academic paper and filled in a questionnaire about self-perception of writing abilities. I discuss what happens when these students try to communicate outside of their academic circle by showing both the methodology used for text analysis and results from the study.

Liberal education students are unique: they have their own personalized training program, different disciplinary interests and become interdisciplinary researchers. For their future careers, impact on society is important: these programs attract students that set out to save the world.

Liberal Arts and Sciences at Utrecht University operationalizes interdisciplinary teaching and learning, combined with principles of liberal education. Liberal education lets students build a strong knowledge base through broad learning in all three main academic fields, whilst specializing in their preferred field. It is a writing-intensive program that teaches skills for writing essays, papers and interdisciplinary research reports by focussing on rigorous teacher feedback, peer feedback and evaluation through rubrics. Whilst liberal education trains a variety of academic skills, most undergraduate programs fail to deliver training in communicating outside of academy walls.

Science communication for interdisciplinary research settings and teaching science popularization for liberal education are both unexplored fields. Science popularization skills are important for these students, because liberal education studies current societal issues – topics that need communication for students’ insights to make a real impact. Furthermore, collaboration in interdisciplinary research settings means communication needs to transcend disciplinary boundaries. This poses a challenge for teaching science communication, as does the heterogeneous mix of students from all disciplinary fields.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Visual presentation
Theme: Transformation