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#UCSciCommSeries Presents: Brittany Anderton

Quick Summary

  • Dr. Brittany Anderton from iBiology spoke to us about her career in science communication, from her unique scicomm post-doc opportunity to becoming a video producer at iBiology.
Headshot of Dr. Brittany Anderton
Dr. Brittany Anderton

Our second speaker in our #UCSciCommSeries focused on Dr. Brittany Anderton, the Associate Director of Research Talks at iBiology. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the work of iBiology, their content consists of educational videos for all sorts of crowds. Some of their videos contain content for students trying to learn more about a particular topic, and some are about special-interest topics from high-profile researchers. 

Since much of our audience consisted of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, Brittany started off by talking about her graduate school experiences and how she became more involved in doing science communication as a career. She started out as a PhD student in biomedicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) – a school with no undergraduates – and learned quickly that she didn’t want a career at the bench. Because UCSF does not have undergraduate students, graduate students there who want teaching experience need to look elsewhere. She turned to the Science and Health Education Partnership to learn more about pedagogy for K-12 education and the Bay Area Science Festival to communicate her research to a broader audience. She used these experiences as well as her experiences lobbying at both the state and federal level to really refine her science communication while in grad school: perfecting her elevator pitch and distilling her research message to nonscientists. She highly recommends continually trying to talk about your research with others and really refining your communication skills that way!

After graduating from UCSF, she became a postdoctoral scholar at UC Davis – studying science communication itself. She was awarded a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2015 to work with Dr. Pamela Ronald and Dr. George Barnett on a unique collaboration project: the challenges of communicating GMOs as a “model system” for biology education. She used her time at UC Davis to pass on her science communication skills to others by leading workshops for Science Says and teaching classes at Sacramento State. Here, much of her work went into evidence-based science communication and tapping into the social sciences to figure out what works and doesn’t work. Her unique combination of rigorous quantitative and qualitative evaluation of science communication and biology teaching skills made her a competitive applicant for her present work at iBiology

Her passion for life sciences as well as communicating to a broader audience brought her to her current position, and she was eager to continue developing her skills in video editing and production. She is still involved in other science education-oriented organizations like the Bay Area Science Festival and the Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research. The types of videos Brittany and iBiology produce now span several types of media: from videos meant to serve as lectures to short films featuring an interesting topic. Even in as competitive of a space as YouTube is, Brittany mentions that if you are true to yourself at identifying what the true need is, sometimes you don’t need to have the fanciest, top-of-the-line equipment to achieve your goals. 


Brittany left us with some takeaways to consider when pursuing our own science communication goals: 

  • Keeping a mindset of learning and improving upon your practice. Brittany thinks of the best practices from social sciences and education research to evaluate her own work. Be reflective and intentional about what you have been doing! Also, never underestimate the importance of values and identity to effective science communication. Meet your audience where they’re at, and understand what they value.
  • Consider bridging STEM education and science communication. Both strive toward similar goals, but are often siloed into two different realms. This way, you can tackle the learning goals of students but also invite interested folks to enjoy your content.
  • Consider your audience AND your goal! You can’t reach everyone, and knowing what you want to accomplish will help you get started with your own science communication project.
  • Your science communication is a craft. Practice and refine your skills! It takes intention, practice, and an openness to feedback. Work with your peers to bounce off ideas and get feedback. Also, Science Says hosts speakers and workshops to work on these skills.


She also left us with some questions to ask ourselves when we’re considering crafting a career in science communication: 

  • What is the change you want to make in the world? Be able to articulate your answer, especially for a potential employer.
  • What unique perspective and skill can you bring to that effort? What are your values and identity? Your skills are important, but what else can you bring to a new space? Ex: Brittany’s perspective doing research on the practice of science communication.

During the Q&A session, she shared additional interesting resources for us, which we’re sharing below:

  • The Conversation: articles written by academics – notable people on the platform include Dietram Scheufele, John Besley, and Anthony Dudo
  • PNAS’s issues on The Science of Science Communication: A colloquium of research dedicated to the practice of science communication. See subsequent articles (ex: The Science of Science Communication II, etc)
  • iBiology’s Share Your Research Competition: an annual contest to practice your research communication skills!
  • Aquí Nos Cuidamos: a science communication project in Puerto Rico, geared towards vulnerable communities
  • Civic Science Fellows: a program designed to train scientists to strengthen the role of science in public life 


We’re very grateful to Brittany for all of her wise words, and hope that this has inspired you to look more into science communication as a career! Please follow her on Twitter if you haven’t already: @andertonbn 

Jessica Trinh is a PhD student at the University of California, Davis. For more content from the UC Davis science communication group "Science Says", follow us on Twitter @SciSays.

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