Discovering a Common Language with Alan Alda (pdf)

The New York Academy of Sciences Magazine

The actor, writer, and science advocate educates scientists in the elusive art of communication.

All he’d said was “Oh,” but I could hear in the shape of the vowel that the smile on his face was evaporating. I’d given Alan Alda a terrible answer, exactly the type of answer he has worked so hard to train out of others.

For more than 20 years, Alda, like the New York Academy of Sciences, has been on a mission to get people talking to one another. While the Academy brings scientists and non-scientists from different disciplines, sectors, and communities together through common goals and initiatives, Alda focuses on bringing them together through a common language.

As Visiting Professor at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, he uses improvisational techniques and theater games to train scientists to distill and translate their work into language that officials, media, funders, the public, and scientists of other disciplines can all understand. . . .

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