7 top reasons to love Science Communication

November 17, 2016 Uncategorized 0 Comments

There are as many reasons to do science communication (SciComm) as there are people who do it. Here are some of the best, all of which are driven by a deep love of science. To be a great science communicator you have to love the details, get your facts right, and work to engage your audience in creative and effective ways.

You might be a science communicator because:

  • You want to change the world for the better – you deeply believe in the power of science to help society
  • You want to make sure a great science is translated into great policy
  • You love writing/art/entertaining/edutainment/museums and you want to mix it with your love of science
  • You want to show how the world works
  • You’ve done so much of your own research you want to shout it from the rooftops – you have a new theory or approach that changes everything — time to get the message out
  • You are a scientist, but everybody tells you how good your presentations are, how beautiful your figures are, how articulate you are when you speak, how clear and easy-to-read your writing is – you’re thinking perhaps science communication is your real calling
  • Help ‘silent’ scientists get their message out to the wider world

public-and-science

Why scientists do not do SciCOMM

Many scientists fail to engage in science communication activities beyond the primary specialist tasks for which they are trained, namely writing papers and grants. Deep focus is good in the sense that it maximizes time spent on research but brings the risk that research doesn’t make it beyond the lab. If research-focused scientists work well with science communicators, all is well.

Here are many reasons research scientists don’t take the time to do science communication. Some researchers are actively against doing science communication. Others just don’t because they honestly don’t have the time or lack the skills or opportunities to do so in a way in which they would feel most comfortable.

Here are the top reasons scientists might be in a position of ‘silence’ when it comes to science communication:

  • Actively against science communication as it dilutes primary research efforts
  • Fear of leaking unpublished research details and being scooped, giving outsiders advantage over those who generated the research results in the first place
  • Real or presumed perception that colleagues will view online science communication (e.g. via social media) as unprofessional or a waste of time
  • True feelings that others can do science communication better
  • Interested and willing to do science communication, but don’t because: Just too busy with primary research to do science communication.
  • Institutional blockages – Institutions feel public understanding of science activities are an ‘opportunity-cost’ and shouldn’t be pursued – or at most kept to a minimum
  • Too shy/untrained to be comfortable talking in front of the general public
  • Interested in addressing the public, but communication style is too dry/specialist/ineffective
  • No funding to engage with the public, despite a willingness to do so
  • Interest, but lack the contacts, context or experience to get started
  • In these cases, most scientists will still be very happy for others to talk about their science. Often, this can take a lot of effort. Translating facts and figures is about distilling complex messages and targeting audiences correctly. Researchers might love all the details and p values, but the public needs equally enlightening and correct representations of the science just in an easier to grasp form.

The best SciComm is creative, specialist work that requires wordsmithing skills, layout, an eye for design, and the ability to work in multimedia, from creating 3D objects to photography to film to performances. This makes science communication too time consuming or hard to do for many.

If you want to do SciComm to help more researchers get their science out the door, you do so by joining their lab, interviewing them, or otherwise translating their work into broader forms of science communication.

If you have a love of SciComm, you can hone many skills to get the job done better and faster and many ways you can help. The world needs great science communication. You’ll be doing everyone a service if you produce valuable, accurate and timely contributions that are best-of-breed in this growing field.