On its surface it seems like a silly question, but you might be surprised how often the typical scientist or science communicator encounters it.
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Why are there so many layers between scientists and the public? Let's tear them down and see what happens.
It’s a surprisingly liberating phrase.
So if someone disagrees with what you're saying, then a simple explanation of the evidence should be enough to dissuade them of their wayward thoughts. Sounds great, except it never works.
But as the sum total of scientific knowledge grows, so does the boundary. In other words, the more we know, the more we know we don't know.
In science we learn about the innermost workings of nature through a clever combination of theory, experiment, and observation. It’s a straightforward formula, but can it work forever?
Is there anything that scientists and science communicators can do to help rid the world of junk science reporting The first and last step: don't play into it.
As with most things media related, the social world is turning everything upside down, if not outright destroying it. This is the case for science communication too.
Want to engage someone in science? Try telling a story. They might like that.
Some days the job of a science communicator seems downright impossible. How can we continue to grow a love for science when there's so much...well, lack of love for science? Especially when this lack of enthusiasm manifests in so many different and troubling ways.
Want to know what a scientist looks like? Look in the mirror.
Quite honestly, the current brand of science is...all over the place.
So what does it mean for a scientist or science communicator to have a mission when it comes to the public?
Sometimes you encounter people who believe differently than you do. I know, crazy, but let's explore the hypothetical scenario just in case it were to happen.
The phrase “popular science” has a benign enough definition: explaining science to the general public.
But we are not competing in the marketplace of commerce. We're competing in the marketplace of ideas.
There are of course a few challenges to public outreach from the perspective of a scientist: difficulty in translating the jargon, fear of saying something inaccurate, discomfort in presenting to large crowds, and so on.
First off, the very act of using natural language to describe scientific concepts can be considered "dumbing down".
But we often hear the narrative that STEM literacy is declining, and that our mission is to fight that decline lest the general public becomes ignorant and afraid of the world around them. But here are three questions in response to that claim: 1) Can you actually reliably measure STEM "literacy"?, 2) Is it really declining?, and 3) Is that the true motivation of our mission?
So what to do? Well in the words of famed English novelist and critic George Orwell, "the quickest way of ending a war is to lose it."