Lessons from the Lab: One Year with the SciCom Writing Team
By MaiLei Meyers
After returning from a semester off in the fall of 2017, I was eager to jump into work more related to my double majors in Strategic Communications and Film. Little did I know, I would stumble into an incredible opportunity writing about…science?
As someone with a track record of slugging through science coursework, getting paid to write about it had just the right challenge factor to pique my interest. From first interviews to fifth drafts and everything in between, I’ve learned so much. Here are my top three takeaways:
1. Science writing
After taking years of writing intensive courses in the journalism and film departments, I figured science writing would be almost easier because of its technical parameters. I was wrong. Science writing is more than just explaining things. Science Communications Lab writers take complex concepts and interview content from researchers and turn them into stories that hopefully everyone wants to read. I often found myself struggling to switch gears from describing things in a promotional, sometimes extraneous way to just the basics without oversimplifying everything. Learning how to write concisely and to prioritize information are two things I would not be as well-versed in without my experiences here.
The Science Communications Lab valuesholds collaboration as a t its core principle. Our staff fluctuated by semester, but one thing remained the same: graphic designers and writers teaming up. We understand the power of many individuals contributing their strengths and improving their weak spots together. For example, I worked with designer Megan Smith, on how to best communicate the complexities of new agricultural research for Twitter imagery. I worked on the copy and fact checked how we were telling the story. Megan created the imagery sets and made multiple panelssets for post distribution. This project was streamlined due to our collaboration and full of invaluable ideas we brought to life as a pair.
While working in the Science Communications Lab, I discovered how I best understood storytelling. I would often find myself writing long winded stories and letting the particularities of explaining science get in my way. After developing standard feature stories for most of my time as a writer, I was able to try my hand at storytelling through a visual outlet called “story maps.” Creating a logical story map with concise copy came naturally to me compared to the processes I had gone through on earlier projects. Though it only took approaching a project from a different angle, the basics of crafting a story remained the same.