Image credit: AWeith [ CC BY-SA 4.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons

Image credit: AWeith [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons

A person is more than a list of facts, right? If you were asked to describe someone, you would start out with simple stats: height, build, hair color (or lack thereof), etc. Then you would go to more abstract descriptions, like their general attitude or personality. But to really uniquely encapsulate a human being you would have to describe them with intangibles, those hard-to-express but essential attributes that, woven together, paint a picture of what a person is actually like. 

It's all too easy to present science as a list of facts. But how do we communicate what science actually is? What the scientific process entails, or what it means to have a scientific mindset and worldview? How skepticism, constant criticism, deference to observation, and boundless creativity mix together to make a potent combination? How do we explain what it's like to be a scientist without becoming one?

Don't get me wrong - cool and fun facts about the universe are, well, cool and fun, and certainly help to draw audiences into the world of science. But in a media landscape dominated by sensationalist clickbait headlines that only deliver surface-level engagement - or no engagement at all - it's troubling to see science presented in the same way and falling into the same traps. Our goals of science communication have to be so much more. We have to show the how in addition to the what. Indeed, the method we use to discover an answer is far more important, and far more meaningful, than the particular number or fact that results from that search.

We can't ever forget in our teaching moments the "how" we do science, otherwise it will always be just a list of empty facts, as easily consumed and discarded as the last headline.


Comment