On Saturday 22nd – Earth day – scientists and pro-science folks all around the world marched to celebrate and promote science.
Many people have blogged about this, most better than I could. So I’ll just mention one message I care about deeply. We (scientists) have to become better at engaging with the public.
(Non-) Scientific reporting, as it filters down to a general audience, too often focusses on big stories and easy solutions. I believe science communication should ideally inspire curiosity for the complexity of our world, rather than pretend a group of clever people just ‘solved X’. Because I’m afraid, stories about silver bullets, wonder drugs, and mind control are likely to create one of two reactions:
– Disbelief in and distrust of science (standing tall before the interview gets you that job?! squinting into the left-top corner is an admission of lying?! – who should trust ‘science’ if that’s the kind of truths science produces?)
– The expectation that science has easy answers for everything – in fact the illusion that there are easy solutions to complex problems (think politics & societal debates).
Every researcher I know enjoys the challenges and intricacies of their field. Maybe we can promote the wonder of complexity, rather than fake simplicity?
Or maybe I’m just starry-eyed because I enjoyed the science march so much.
NB (2/5/17) Just discovere that the Wellcome Trust currently tweets and polls under the hashtag #ExpertDebate about exactly this topic. Very much recommended!