Like many professionals, scientists are trained to communicate in a particular way. This isn’t a bad thing – on the contrary, it’s important and extremely useful. An insistence on precision, a specialized vocabulary and a defined format of communication help maintain the smooth flow of information which is (or should be) at the heart of the scientific endeavour. Unfortunately, the ability to communicate with other scientists doesn’t necessarily translate into good public communications skills. While many scientists have those skills, there are many, many more who lack them. Communicating with the public is simply not part of the standard scientific education, which creates a gap between research scientists and the rest of society. This blog is my way of trying to help fill that gap.
A better understanding of science is important for everyone. Since most scientific research is publicly funded, scientists need the public to understand the value of their work. A scientifically educated and aware public is more likely to do so and to be willing to extend or expand support for science. For non-scientists, a better understanding of science can help make more informed and effective choices on both a personal and a social level. From GMOs to climate change to stem cell research, we are struggling together to regulate the decisions we make and to understand their effects. While science alone cannot determine our choices, they must be based in a firm understanding of science.
This blog won’t just be about cutting-edge or peer-reviewed research; I’m going to write about whatever I think might be interesting, which will also include older research and simple explanations of things that might be considered “basic science”. My goal is to communicate scientific ideas to non-scientists in a way that is enlightening, engaging or even inspirational. I hope the blog will be more than just my writing, though – discussion and discourse are the heart of learning, so please share your thoughts and questions in the comments. I’m also happy to take suggestions for subjects; if there’s something you’d like me to write about, feel free to get in touch and let me know.
The world around us is richly mysterious, full of dazzling wonders and dizzying complexity. Science is how we try to capture that numinous whole in beautiful, elegant explanations and simple ideas. Each advance is a small wonder in its own right and science communication should reflect that sentiment. At its best, it should do more than just explain. It should impart a sense of majesty and beauty; it should inspire us to keep asking questions and to strive for understanding. I was lucky enough to grow up in just such an atmosphere; I hope that I can pass on some small part of that richness.