Comments

  1. Maria P said:

    Do you consider the possibility that art and sex may be last century’s marketing and generally that linear models of communication are rather limited in their potential?

  2. Jennifer Gagne said:

    Thank you for this article! I am totally and completely blown away by the contrast of the plastic videos you posted. Yes… I knew we were in a dire state of science promotion videos, but that was a no-hiding, this-is-the-actual-state-of-where-we’re-at example. I’m actually in state of shock.

    As for a making a change – One of the first big steps is exactly what you’re doing – bringing up the conversation with science communicators and asking us to push our limits, push our teams (if we’re in universities, labs, magazines, online publications) and strive to the level of a Jennifer Aniston viral video. I’ve worked as a science communicator in a lab for 4 years now—I have a journalism, not science, background—and I am always blown away by our researchers to participate in new and creative ways to communicate.

    We just need a bit of dedication, some creativity—and funding, yes, but it is amazing what you can do with a limited budget. It really is a shifting conversation and dedication to creativity. I challenge everyone (including myself and my teams) to push our limits and reach higher! We can do this!

  3. David Gronbach said:

    I agree with you, Emily, but only to a point. Many times I think we as scientists get so excited and carried away with every aspect of our science that we end up hurting ourselves with the public because they don’t understand or care about the details of our quests for knowledge. To put it simply, I think we share too much too soon. We’re like chefs running out of the kitchen all excited because we put a pinch of oregano in the sauce. And the people look at us strange and say…“yeah…that’s great….when do we eat?”

    A perfect example of this was the partially tiled Hi-Res images from the Mars Curiosity rover. As scientists we’re all excited and gooey-eyed over the incomplete tiles which put together a mosaic view with big black lines that looked like a redacted document. And so that’s what the non-scientific public assumed…that we’re hiding something or blacking out information.
    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/multimedia/pia16051.html

    It’s also hard for us to imagine that anyone wouldn’t be as excited as we are about our science. My wife reminds me often of her indifference to the happenings in my lab. “That’s nice, honey” and she goes back to her episode of So You Think You Can Dance. LOL

    It’s all how we present ourselves. We have to find better ways of condensing months and years of our passions into a paragraph of about 5 sentences with a link that says “read here for more information” and breaks it down for them, step by step, and very slowly, while not boring them to death with the details we find so irresistible.

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  4. Scott Jeffers said:

    As a practicing scientist, who believes it is imperative that we learn to communicate science to the public, I applaud your article. I was taught how to give scientific presentations, full of data slides, to other scientists. However, I was never taught to give an entertaining and thought-provoking presentation to non-scientists. I believe that graduate schools are doing a disservice to students and lay persons by not fostering the intermingling of these two groups. I propose that professors at graduate schools develop courses where their students are required to give presentations at venues such as Café Scientifique. Requiring graduate students to give presentations at these public venues costs nothing and integrating this into courses should be very cheep. I think that scientists must start the campaign to bring science to the masses. They can do this either by becoming better communicators or by hiring trained scientific communicators. Becoming a better scientific communicator starts in graduate school. If there is not a program at your university, then ask that one be started. If the program cannot be started, for one reason or another, then join a Café Scientifique or Toast Masters and learn to give engaging scientific presentations. We are responsible for our own lack of ability to communicate science effectively.

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