Communication in Science


I watched this great TEDxRotterdam talk today the guy who gave it wrote an article on a case of homosexual necrophilia activities of a duck. He happened to observe it in action. He basically happened to be in the right place at the right time and is trained as a biologist. For that article he won the ig noble prize, for science that makes you laugh then think. These types of awards are great methods for scientists to communicate with the general public. It shows that scientists can really have a sense of humor.

Another great example of this was a panel discussion at The Amazing Meeting, a James Randi event, which had two really well known scientists, Bill Nye and Neil de Grasse Tyson as well as two less well known scientists (to the general population) Pamela Gay and Lawrence Krauss. (Link to the video it’s an hour long) In the panel they discuss the future of space. At some points it gets rather heated between de Grasse Tyson and Krauss, but it’s great to see serious scientists with a sense of humor discuss something they are passionate about. All of them make some seriously excellent points. They discuss how we’re at a turning point in the space program and  how the shift to commercial space flight will change the space industry. The point they are the most serious about however is saving the James Web Space Telescope. For those of you unaware, this is the replacement for Hubble, as I mentioned in my NASA blog. As a side note we need to save this.

The point they were making though, is that there needs to be an adjustment in how NASA works and how scientists interact with the larger population. If scientists aren’t able to articulate why a specific study needs to be done, for it’s own sake, then in some ways they don’t deserve to do it. The added benefit is that most of these endeavors do have additional positive externalities in the form of spin-off firms. Which is pretty awesome.

However, the important thing to take away here is that there needs to be an improve method for scientists to communicate complex ideas to the general public in a way that gets people reading about it. Independent bloggers like me certainly help, but there needs to be a larger push by general scientists. I’d love to have my advisers here at TU/e blog. They study extremely interesting topics and I’d really enjoy getting to read them. There are some “rock” star science bloggers like PZ Meyers but he also discusses a lot of controversial topics that a great deal of people don’t like. He’s an atheist and is extremely vocal about it. Another blogger is Ben Goldacre who studies bad science and attempts to debunk it (his TED Talk).

I think that Google Scholar will do great things for opening up access to materials written by scientists. I for one try to take advantage of it. I use it to search for documents if I can’t find them on the university system and surprisingly I have a really high hit rate. Copyright restrictions limit it.

So how can you help? I suggest sharing articles you find interesting. I try to do it as much as I can. I love when I find a really interesting article posted on facebook or twitter.

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