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  • Writer's pictureBethann Garramon Merkle

A Top-20 Reading List: Starting Points for Science of SciComm

A screenshot of the reading list, showing the first 8 citations (entries listed in alphabetical order). Follow links in the blog post for an accessible, plain-text version.
Screenshot of my (current) top-20 reading list

In the spirit of my earlier post sharing my detailed scicomm bibliography, today I'm sharing a top-20 reading list. [1, 2]

When I posted the full bibliography, my goal was to provide a less-overwhelming entry point into the literature about science communication.

That bibliography includes 138 entries (including a few repeats because it's organized by topic). Certainly, that's more manageable than the ~8,950,000 results that show up for "science communication" in Google Scholar. And, indeed, within that bibliography, you can find 19 themes containg somewhere between 3-20 papers each.

So, those themes further narrow in on a place to start with all this material. But also, nearly 140 papers is a lot to digest.

I was mulling this over today, as I participated in another student's defense and subsequent committee meeting. [3] Although the research projects they worked on weren't specifically about scicomm, communication and engagement, trust-building, and relationship tending with a wide range of folks were crucial to the success of the work. And, by success, I (and the rest of the committee, the student, and nonacademic partners) mean that the work will be useable for advancing science and management of a particular wildlife species.

In the committee meeting, we talked specifically about the ways that principles of ethical and inclusive scicomm intersect with the research and how this student handled them. And, at one point, the student said about scicomm: "It's called soft skills, but that's silly. We can't do what we do without them."

That statement resonated so much for me. The scicomm theme became even more pertinent as the conversation then carried on to trust and relationship building and the essential nature of connecting what researchers are working on to what people value and care about.

All that led me to realize that ~140 papers are still way too broad of a beginning.

So, I'm sharing here a PDF that has 20 references on it. These are the 20 that I've prioritized for graduate students and early career folks looking for somewhere to start with their reading on the science of science communication. It's an eclectic smörgåsbord, and it's not tailored to a specific type of scicomm, public engagement, policy, or community work. (If you're looking for that sort of thing, let's talk.)

It's also very likely that if we were to ask 10 other people who are mid-career and work in leadership roles in scicomm or scicomm-adjacent realms, that their lists would look quite different. And, if you ask me in a year, this list will be different; it's different from the first version, which I developed in 2021. That's fine. :) [4]



1 I initially developed this list for PhD students' comprehensive exams, as a distilled version of the more extensive scicomm bibliography.

2 If you're not able to access one or more of the papers from this list, the authors of most papers are usually very happy to share them with you directly. If that doesn't work, feel free to follow-up with me, and I'll get you PDFs of them.

3 The student did great!

4 Indeed, I'd love to hear what would be on your top-20 list.

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