Science communication for ethical community engagement

2-credit online course for Harvard STEM graduate students

Deficit model approaches to science communication presume that facts speak for themselves and that providing “lay ” audiences with scientific information can dispel public opposition to science and technology. From vaccine uptake to trust in novel gene therapies, deficit model approaches are failing. This fully on-line, seminar-style course turns the deficit model on its head by providing the critical awareness and skills needed for truly effective science communication and community engagement. This course teaches an alternative approach that recognizes a plurality of values and harnesses those differences to build relationships and find common ground. Through a combination of short lectures, critical readings, small group activities, and targeted communication training, students will gain the necessary skills to apply these learnings to a diversity of audiences; from interdisciplinary teams to policymakers, community partners, and the broader public. Together we will explore case studies on vaccine uptake, synthetic biology, environmental technologies, population genomics, big data, and disability justice of CRISPR gene editing to cultivate ethical communication strategies that aim to connect across differences, not convince. The skills gained in this course will be equally valuable to those students pursuing careers in academia, science policy, science communication, and beyond. We hope you can join us!

Dates and times

  • Fall 2021
  • October 18th – December 1st, 2021
  • Monday, Wednesday, Friday
  • 12 pm – 1:30 pm ET



  • Natalie Kofler, PhD
  • Riley Taitingfong, PhD

The course is offered to current Harvard STEM PhD students