Newswise — What is the most effective way to share science with the public? How can scientists make information understandable and relatable? The key is storytelling, according to scientists and artists who will present at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) Annual Meeting, which takes place January 3 – 7, 2018, in San Francisco. It will be the first scientific conference to bring together multiple representatives from the scientific community and the entertainment industry to advance strategies for public engagement with science. SICB’s exploration of storytelling in science communication will center around a society-wide symposium, Science Through Narrative: Engaging Broad Audiences, on January 5. 

“Facts do not speak for themselves, but a good story makes them meaningful and memorable,” says Sara ElShafie, a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Berkeley, who is the primary organizer for the symposium. “We are very excited that SICB chose to make storytelling and science outreach a major theme at their 2018 meeting.”

 The meeting will kick off on January 3 with a plenary talk from New York Times columnist and renowned science writer Carl Zimmer. In the symposium on January 5, speakers will include leadership from scientific and entertainment communities, including Kirk Johnson, Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History; Angela Lepito, Global Education Outreach Director for DreamWorks Animation; Glen McIntosh, Animation Supervisor of the Jurassic World franchise for Industrial Light and Magic; Anna Kipnis, Senior Gameplay Programmer for Double Fine Productions; and Eric Rodenbeck, CEO of Stamen Design, an internationally acclaimed data visualization firm.

“Putting scientists with storytelling chops together with people who are masters at getting their message to a huge population will be key to the future of science,” says symposium co-organizer Stuart Sumida, an anatomist and paleontologist from The California State University who has consulted on over 60 motion pictures and video games

Preceding the symposium, ElShafie will offer a “Science Through Story” workshop on January 4 with a collaborator from Pixar Animation Studios. The workshop is part of a series developed by ElShafie in collaboration with educators at the UC Museum of Paleontology and artists at Pixar. In the symposium workshop, scientists will learn how to make content meaningful for general audiences by using story elements such as relatable characters and universal themes.

 In conjunction with the symposium and the workshop, the meeting will feature presentations and artwork from a dozen other early career scientists and artists who have launched their own initiatives to advance science outreach. These range from dance theater, to online media productions, to accessible exhibit design. One student will even sketch-note the symposium talks, and offer a workshop on sketch-noting at the meeting.

 Attendees can also practice their science storytelling skills at a story booth in the exhibitor’s hall at the SICB meeting. Recorded stories will be made available online after the meeting.

ElShafie hopes that this meeting will inspire scientists to use all of their talents to reach the public. “Effective engagement requires both critical thinking and creativity,” she says. “This meeting will spark new discussions and collaborations toward making science accessible for all.”


For additional information, or to be placed in touch with symposium participants:

Sara ElShafie, (630) 209-1840; [email protected]

Stuart Sumida, (951) 505-8020; [email protected]


A full listing of the symposium speakers and more details can be found at:



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Meeting Link: SICB 2018 Annual Meeting

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SICB 2018 Annual Meeting