Science Communication Certificate

Certificate in Science Communication


The Certificate in Science Communication is offered jointly by the 21st Century Scientists Working Group and the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning. It is designed for graduate students currently enrolled at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, but also open to postdocs. The certificate is designed to be completed in one year, but some applicants may take more or less time to complete the requirements. 21st Century Scientists Working Group talks and activities are open to all. More guidelines are available at the post “Tackling the Science Communication Certificate Program.


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Completed applications  for Spring 2020 are due April 3, 2020. Please make sure that you have posted your plans in the Slack #grad-certificate channel and/or discussed how you will fulfill each requirement with the 21 Sci planning committee to ensure that you have fullfilled each requirement. You may be asked to make revisions, so please plan accordingly. You are welcome to submit applications ahead of the deadline.

Why a Certificate in Science Communication?

The ability to communicate with others about your research is an important part of being a scientist today. Understanding your audience and presenting your work in a way that resonates with them will help you interact more successfully with members of the press, members of the public, and grant committees. It may also enable you to engage directly with your audience through your own writing, videos, podcasts, or other media.


Requirements are also detailed in the application for the Certificate in Science Communication.

1. Attend three 21st Century Scientists Working Group journal clubs or talks, and present at one 21st Century Scientists Working Group journal club. Working Group journal clubs are typically offered once monthly and last one hour, including discussion; organized talks are offered several times per semester and also last about one hour. See the 21st Century Scientists Working Group website ( for meeting times and location.

2. Attend a minimum of 10 hours of science communication-themed workshops or seminars. This must include attending at least four hours of 21st Century Scientist workshops. You may select from the following or request to have another workshop accepted. For on campus events, obtain a signature to verify your presence. For off campus events, submit a brief description of the event and your reaction to it (for example, one paragraph of text; your storified live tweets of the event; or other media).

  • 21st Century Scientist monthly meetings

  • ComSciCon (, local or national)

  • AAAS science communication workshop

  • science communication track at professional meeting (with prior approval)

3. Read, watch, or listen to an experienced science communicator and complete a report describing the content, what the communicator did well, what could have been improved upon (if anything), and what you learned from the experience.

  • Read a science themed book intended for a lay audience

  • Read 3 science blog posts by a single author or on the same topic

  • Read 3 related science themed magazine articles (by the same author, from the same magazine, or covering similar concepts)

  • Watch a live science presentation intended for a lay audience

  • Attend a live public engagement event, such as a children’s museum science presentation

  • Watch a single long-form or 3 short-form science themed videos intended for a lay audience, preferably with a unifying theme (e.g., all on related topics) or a single format (e.g., all TED or all TED-Ed videos).

4. Complete at least one public engagement project, selected from the options below, and complete a report on your experience (what you did and what you learned from it). (See below for details on report requirements.)

  • Maintain a blog/vlog/podcast covering science for a lay audience (minimum 5 posts)

  • Publish a science story in a popular press publication

  • Create a related series of videos on science for a lay audience and publish them (e.g. on YouTube) (minimum 5 videos)

  • Participate in planning and implementing a public science event, such as in a school classroom, at a farmer’s market, or in a museum (contact 21st Century Scientists Working Group for assistance in identifying groups currently running such events)

  • Complete a science communication class at U of I (from this list of courses, or you may petition to have a new class accepted)

  • Complete a one-semester or longer SciComm internship (contact 21st Century Science Working Group for assistance in setting one up)

  • Present on science to a live lay audience (minimum 20 minutes)

  • Other project, with prior approval

5. Complete a reflective piece on your philosophy of science communication and public engagement (any format allowed in the reflective report guidelines is acceptable). Possible topics that you might cover include: What does science communication mean to you? Why is science communication important? What is an audience, or, what is your audience? How do you prefer to engage with your audience, and how do you determine whether that engagement has been successful? Ideally, this report will include how your understanding changed over time during the course of completing the requirements.

Reflective report guidelines

A reflective report may take any format you prefer, including an essay (about 2 pages), video (about 5 minutes), infographic, series of photographs, or comic (sequential art). In the case of the two requirements, observation of an experienced communicator and completion of a public engagement project, the goal of the report is a) to describe the experience and b) to reflect on what you learned from the experience.

To apply for the Certificate in Science Communication, complete the application form and submit it to 21centurysci at gmail dot com or in person at a 21st Century Scientists Working Group meeting. You may find the post “Tackling the Science Communication Certificate Program” useful.

You can see examples here:

Observing a Experienced Science Communicator (Requirement 3)

Completing a Public Engagement Project (Requirement 4)

Philosophy of Science Communication (Requirement 5)