Science Writing and Rhetorical Training: A New Model for Developing Graduate Science Writers
In fall 2015, Drs. Ingrid Lofgren, Caroline Druschke, Nancy Karraker, Scott McWilliams, and Nedra Reynolds—representing the Depts. of Nutrition & Food Sciences, Natural Resources Science, and Writing & Rhetoric—were awarded $500,000 by the National Science Foundation (NSF) from the new Innovations in Graduate Education track in NSF’s Research Traineeship Program. This award supports implementation of a new model for education in graduate science writing at the University of Rhode Island.
certificate in science writing and rhetoric
This graduate certificate program combines graduate-level training and an off-campus internship in science writing and rhetoric to provide graduate students with a solid foundation and skills for taking often-complex scientific results and communicating them to both specialist and non-scientific audiences, including the public and policy makers.
Graduate students are trained to write for discipline-specific journals, but they typically receive little instruction in communicating to public and non-specialist audiences. This lack of practical training persists despite the importance of engaging members of the public in scientific research to support policy decisions and science literacy.
The new program, SciWrite, serves cohorts of Graduate Students and Faculty Fellows and Mentors and the wider university community through workshops, courses, and internships that emphasize academic and non-academic writing. A highlight of the program will be the establishment of a Graduate Science Writing Center.
SciWrite integrates diverse types of science writing and communication from the beginning of and throughout graduate students’ scientific training.
A key to the training model offered is grounding in rhetoric, the academic discipline devoted to the persuasive power of language that includes studies of argument, public discourse, and civic engagement. The rhetorical approach will have three distinct features: habitual writing, multiple genres, and frequent review. Graduate students will write early and often to create a habit of writing. They will practice writing across multiple genres for academic and non-academic audiences. Graduate science writers will plan and draft their writing and then enter a process of review and revision in one-on-one and small group tutorials in classrooms, online peer review forums, and a Graduate Science Writing Center. This training is achieved through workshops led by the Co-PIs; several innovative, required courses; peer review; an internship focused on science communication with an outside agency; and faculty-mentored writing projects including the traditional thesis/dissertation and journal publication of the results from their original investigations.
Workshops for cohorts of Graduate Fellows and Faculty Fellows and Mentors will provide a rhetorical foundation and serve as a basis for individual, pedagogical, and curricular change. Faculty Fellows will be guided to adjust syllabi and writing projects for their graduate courses to incorporate more writing earlier in their courses and more opportunities for review and revision. Assessment of short-term and long-term student learning outcomes, writing tool adoption by faculty, programmatic outcomes, and project-level management will determine which components will be carried into the future and can serve as a model for similar programs.
The NSF Research Traineeship Program is designed to encourage the development and implementation of bold, new, potentially transformative, and scalable models for STEM graduate education training. The Innovations in Graduate Education Track is dedicated solely to piloting, testing, and evaluating novel, innovative, and potentially transformative approaches to graduate education.
Recruitment for our second cohort of Student and Faculty Fellows will begin in Spring 2017. Check back here for more updates.