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Randy Olson #SICB2014 "Storytelling Skills: Now mandatory for a career in science"

Randy Olson was the plenary speaker at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB). He spoke about the importance of narrative training for scientists and offered a storytelling workshop for the meeting's attendants. Here are some highlights of the weekend.


  1. Before his SICB plenary, Randy stopped by KXAN Austin in the afternoon to speak with NBC News about the power of narrative in science communication.
  2. On Friday, January 3, Randy Olson delivered the plenary at the 2014 SICB Meeting to a filled ballroom.
  3. Or maybe it was "the Jane Goodall of sea squirts." (Ken Sebens was Randy's Ph.D. advisor and a former president of SICB.)
  4. Randy started his talk with anecdotes from his cataclysmic career shift from tenured marine biologist to budding filmmaker...
  5. Whether it be "surf, surf, surf," "science, science, science," or "Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare," we get sucked into narrow obsessions. If we want to make those "obsessions" relevant to others, we have to zoom out and find the narrative arcs that resonate with people.
  6. In his book "The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human," Jonathan Gottschall makes the argument that we are storytelling creatures. 

    Research has shown that narrative structure enhances brain activity.
  7. Randy's first documentary, "Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus," premiered at Tribeca in 2006.
  8. For more about the "and, but, therefore" (ABT) structure, check out Randy's 2013 talk on TEDMED.