Science communication for ethical community engagement

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 online 2-credit seminar 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, population genomics, CRISPR gene editing, and more 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.

Because of the online nature of this course, students ineligible for credit will be offered a certificate of completion.

Dates and times

    • October 26th – December 16th, 2022 (no classes the week of Thanksgiving)
    • Wednesday, Friday
    • 12 pm – 1:30 pm ET
    • Online (over Zoom)



Natalie Kofler

Natalie Kofler, PhD
Molecular Biologist and Bioethicist


Riley Taitingfong, PhD
Community Engagement Practitioner

The course is offered to current Harvard STEM PhD students