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There is an urgent need for scientists to improve their communication skills with the public, especially for those involved in applying science to solve conservation or human health problems. However, little research has assessed the effectiveness of science communication training for applied scientists. We responded to this gap by developing a new, interdisciplinary training model, “SciWrite,” based on three central tenets from scholarship in writing and rhetoric: 1) habitual writing, 2) multiple genres for multiple audiences, and 3) frequent review and created an interdisciplinary rubric based on these tenets to evaluate a variety of writing products across genres. We used this rubric to assess three different genres written by 12 SciWrite-trained graduate science students and 74 non-SciWrite-trained graduate science students at the same institution. We found that written work from SciWrite students scored higher than those from non-SciWrite students in all three genres, and most notably thesis/dissertation proposals were higher quality. The rubric results also suggest that the variation in writing quality was best explained by the ability of graduate students to grasp higher-order writing skills (e.g., thinking about audience needs and expectations, clearly describing research goals, and making an argument for the significance of their research). Future programs would benefit from adopting similar training activities and goals as well as assessment tools that take a rhetorically informed approach.

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Frontiers in Environmental Science



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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Erin R. Harrington, Nancy E. Karraker and Scott R. McWilliams are affiliated with the Department of Natural Resources Science.

Ingrid E. Lofgren is affiliated with the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences.