Why It's Important
We live in a fascinating time were science and technology touch almost every aspect of our lives, not only as individuals but as a global community. Many societal changing technologies are on the cusp of exponential transitions, which will serve to further enhance our already intertwined relationship with science and technology.
In order to make well-informed decisions, about the environment, our health, our data, and our politics, we must have access to unbiased and rigorously vetted information. As scientists, we are those tasked at collecting and generating this critical data. It is our duty to inform the public of our findings, not just through traditional academic publications and conference presentations, but to present the information in a digestible way for a lay audience through a means that will reach the public.
In an era of strong media biases (in all directions), hyperpolarized politics and countless sources of disinformation, it is now more than ever critically important for scientists to seek and create mediums of communicating the facts.
Beyond the importance of communicating science, I personally enjoy it. Through social media, talks, panel discussions and even in everyday conversations with people, I love thinking of the best way to communicate a seemly complex physical phenomenon in ways that are accessible. The moment you see someone’s facial expression change from squinting confusion to the that makes sense head nod and smile is one of the most rewarding feelings I can have as a scientist.
This desire to communicate science to a larger audience was one of the main reasons I started Nanotech NYC. In a sense, I was able to create my own platform to help myself and others amply their research and activities. Over the years I have been fortunate to speak at several events, each time trying to frame the science at hand not only as approachable constructs but in a way that is fun for the audience. It’s easy to present information using your subgroup’s scientific terminology, crammed into a succinct 15-minute data dump because that’s what we were trained to do. We spend years isolated and communicating with only our technical peers, speaking a language that sometimes a colleague in a slightly adjacent field can’t even understand. Overcoming this takes a conscious effort and practice, something I feel I will always be working on.
The good news is, we are getting better at this! Over the past few years, science communication (SciComm) is finding its way into institutions, either as formal classes and degrees or as seminars, workshops, and even conferences. Social media (Twitter, Instagram in particular), YouTube and podcasts have helped immensely, giving each scientist a means of reaching a larger audience and providing a supportive community as a resource.
There is a lot of work to be done. Communicating scientists have to speak louder than ever to be heard over the avalanche of false information out there. I personally hope to expand my efforts in this space over the coming year. I will look for more opportunities to speak in front of lay audiences, better educate myself on effective means of communicating, team up with new colleagues and organizations, as well as use this platform as a tool for reaching more people.
If you ever want to collaborate on a SciComm project or are looking to get started with your own campaign, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. While formally perusing more SciComm is relatively new to me, I am happy to share all the wonderful resources I have come across and can point you to people who are already doing an amazing job in this space.