"On the surface FameLab looks like it is just a bit of fun, but there is a very, very serious underlying purpose here - you just have to look around us to see how science is playing a really fundamental role in understanding our world and where it is going so we need a new generation of people to explain science if the democratic process is going to work effectively."

- Roger Highfield, former editor of New Scientist

Why Participate

Public interest in science is high, and advances can be rapid, high profile, hyped, misinterpreted, and misunderstood. In this landscape, strong science communication skills are critical to sustaining credibility, support, and funding. Opportunities must be created for scientists, policy makers, and the general public to exchange views in a dialogue of mutual respect and trust. To do this well, we must institutionalize communications training into the scientific pursuit.

The real value in FameLab lies beyond the excitement of the competition element. At each event, there will be a science communication workshop led by professionals in the field-this is the heart of FameLab. These workshops are designed to provide you with insight into how best to talk to stakeholders along your career paths such as department heads, deans, and political representatives, but also voting neighbors and relatives, youth in your communities, and yes—perhaps even to broad public audiences through the lens of a camera or the voice of a blog. The skills you gain may even carry over into effective proposal writing!


FameLab is committed to building skills and fostering talent in today’s practicing scientists.

Here's who's eligible:
  • Graduate students (both MS and PhD)
  • Postdoctoral fellows and early career researchers within 5 years of receiving PhD or MS degrees
  • Upper division, advanced undergraduate students and mid-career scientists will not be turned away, but the focus is on early career.
  • International (non-US citizen) scientists who are currently working and studying in the US are welcome. They must demonstrate a formal affiliation with a US institution.
  • Science communication students and professionals are NOT eligible.
All participants must be actively doing research in fields such as:
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology
  • Astrobiology
  • Astronomy
  • Astrophysics
  • Biology
  • Climatology
  • Conservation
  • Earth Science
  • Ecology
  • Geography
  • Geology
  • Heliophysics
  • Paleontology
  • Planetary Science
  • Oceanography
  • Physics
  • Solar System Exploration

What To Expect

FameLab is like any other commitment - you get out what you put in! Here is how each regional heat will flow, and how you’ll need to prepare.

  • 1

    First, you’ll choose a scientific concept related to “Exploring Earth and Beyond.” It can include but is not limited to the topic of your own research. You’ll then prepare TWO three-minute oral presentations. They may address the same topic, but if they do, they must be notably distinct. Small props are welcome, but no electronic media including slides or charts are allowed. A printed image is not necessarily a prop! Please ask if you are unsure.

  • 2

    All participants will deliver their first presentation to the judges in a preliminary competition round, followed by a science communication workshop (both are closed to the public). Winners of the preliminary competition round will advance to the final competition round where they will present their second piece to the judges in front of a public audience. All participants are invited and encouraged to attend the final round to cheer on their fellow communicators!

  • 3

    A winner and several wild cards are chosen from each regional heat final round. The regional heat winners advance to the FameLab USA Final. Judges typically select some of the wild cards as national finalists as well, and a semi-final round may be implemented. The winner of the FameLab USA Final advances to the FameLab International Final in the UK and represents the United States in the competition.

A typical FameLab regional heat schedule goes like this, and full participation is expected:
    Day One:
  • 9am-12pm — Preliminary Competition Rounds
  • 12-1pm — Group lunch (provided)
  • 2-5pm — Communications workshop
  • Day Two:
  • 7-9pm — Evening competition round

The FameLab team is committed to finding communication and outreach opportunities for all FameLab participants, and supporting them to take part.


The judges are looking to see you shine in content, clarity, and charisma.


Has your audience evolved their understanding of your concept?
Your talk explores a relatively sophisticated scientific concept, research question, and/or research process, breaks it down, and relates it to a lay audience.

  • Strong topics include, for example:
    • Solar System formation
    • How limb regeneration works in animals
    • Particle/wave duality of light
  • Weak topics include, for example:
    • Facts about a planet in our Solar System
    • Discussion of the components of a cell
    • Description of a research project or campaign
  • Topics related to science, including history and philosophy of science, education, and policy are not acceptable concepts in and of themselves, but can be used to support narrative construction around the exploration of your concept (see Clarity), and/or relevance to your audience (see Charisma).
Your talk is scientifically accurate.

  • Drawing out any controversy or debate can provide engaging context, but accuracy of the science is paramount.


Was your audience able to follow your thought process and understand your concept?
Your talk is free from technical terms and jargon.

  • Technical terms need to be made more accessible through clarifying definitions that can include analogies, comparisons, and metaphors. Your talk uses these devices to introduce new words when necessary, bridging the familiar and the unfamiliar. This process supports making a connection with your audience (see Charisma).
Your talk uses a theme and narrative to convey content.

  • A theme prepares the audience to listen actively and integrate new information with existing knowledge.
  • An organized narrative helps your audience members stay tuned and sustain their attention. Use of devices and structures such as chunking information, bracketing chunks with questions or thematic statements, a story arc, etc. helps your audience follow your thought process toward the goal of understanding your concept.


Does your audience want to hear more?
Your talk results in a connection with your audience.

  • A connection is possible when you present your material in a relevant context for your audience—in a way in which they feel the content matters to them and they can relate to it. When a connection is made, your audience is likely to have deeper thoughts about your topic and/or further questions about it.
    • Use of devices such as humor, personal stories, and references to current events or cultural norms can support relevance.
  • When you are comfortable, your audience is comfortable and can more easily connect to you and your subject matter.
    • Work on nerves-management—breathe, relax. Your physical comfort will make your audience more at ease. Be yourself.
Tips and Hints:
  • Be sure you have prepared two 3-minute pieces for the judges. They can be fundamentally about the same scientific concept, but if they are, they must be notably distinct.
  • There will be a timer with a hard stop at 3 minutes.
  • Don’t memorize your material!
  • There will be a downselect after the preliminary competition round...not everyone will go through to the final round, but we hope everyone will come and show their support!
  • Remember, no powerpoint or A/V props of any kind are permitted, and a printed powerpoint slide is NOT an acceptable prop! Neither is a live creature or anything fire-related without preapproval. If you have questions about your props, let us know.
  • Dress is business casual.
  • Relax, have fun—this is a supportive environment—everyone is a winner!

More tips and hints from the originators of FameLab in the UK!

Tips for producing your video for the online competition!

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