Last Earth Day, scientists from all over the world came out and took part in the March for Science. The march was primarily in protest to the current US administration’s seemingly anti-science stance; however, during the months leading up to the march, people in the March for Science Facebook page posted their own additional, personal reasons for wanting to attend. Amidst the thousands of reasons why people decided to “Stand Up for Science”, the bottom line was that people (mostly scientists, but quite importantly, also a large portion of non-scientists) wanted to communicate the importance of science to the public and how advancement in scientific knowledge has affected and shaped our society.
As a scientist, I used to think that as long as I publish my work in a scientific journal, my responsibility of “getting my science out there” was complete. Now I know that science communication (scicomm) is more than publishing academic papers, and now more than ever, it is important to participate in increasing public awareness of and engagement in scientific knowledge. And so I did some research (naturally) on various ways to “scicomm”, and here are a few that I’ve tried so far:
I. Online platforms
The internet is rich in opportunities for science communication: science blogs, videos, and even social media platforms like Twitter and Reddit. I have created accounts in both platforms primarily to engage in science communication. Reddit has a dedicated Science subreddit, where you can have discussions with anyone about any scientific topic. Within r/science, the subreddits are tailored to your specific scientific interest. I especially enjoy the weekly Science AMAs (Ask Me Anything) threads on Reddit, where a panel of professional scientists will answer all your questions on the topic of the day. I learn so much about the different scientific fields while browsing these different subreddits.
Another way to directly communicate science to the public is volunteering at your local events, such as the Rutgers Brain Awareness Week. Earlier this year, I also decided to volunteer for BioBus, a non-profit organization in New York that brings science to school kids. Through performing experiments and interactions with actual scientists (you and me!), you can foster an interest in scientific research.
III. Daily life
I believe that as scientists, we have this great opportunity to engage in scicomm in our everyday interactions. Sometimes when people ask us what we do, we feel an awkwardness and ineptitude in attempting to relate our research. But, I think these are great opportunities for us to share our work with those who are interested in learning more about what we do. Online social media is full of opportunities for spreading scientific information, it is also rampant with misinformation and pseudo-science. By speaking out whenever we can, we can all do our part.
Although the March for Science was an important event, science communication and raising scientific awareness is not a one-time thing. Science communication is a growing field, with a wide variety of definitions and participants. My favorite definition of science communication is from a research article published in 2003 by T.W. Burns et al: “. . .the use of dialogue, skills, and various platforms with the purpose of producing within the public a range of personal responses to science that can be summarized in an AEIOU vowel analogy: Awareness, Enjoyment, Interest, Opinion-forming, and Understanding.”
What about you? How do you scicomm? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
References and additional reading: