Author: Daniel Beverly, PhD candidate studying plant physiology
"Abstract concepts need to be explained at local community level producing memories, not factoids."
Scientists need to get back to interacting and communicating at the local level with informative and positive messaging and reattaching themselves as local figures. Connecting to the community increases the science networks that stimulate speculative conversations on science removing the obstacle of science does not influence me. A large issue on this disconnect appears to be product of poor fundamental education and not physically being able to see or touch some of the more abstract mechanisms in the world around us.
This year one of the most-witnessed events may have been the kick-start science communication needed. The Great American Eclipse was one of the greatest results of science communication that I can ever recall.
It was great seeing science teachers on the local news broadcasts using different size balls to explain the physics of the eclipse: how such a small object as the moon can block all of the light from the sun (400 times the size).
It was also great to see the interaction with the community submitting questions weeks before asking astronomy, physics, and basic science questions. This momentum of talking science with locals and non-scientist may be able to push the conversation to other sciences and other important findings.
Eclipse progression (Photo Created by Bryan Carnathan developed for NASA)
Last week the House Science Committee met to discuss, the value, impact, and preliminary results from the Great American Solar Eclipse in August. The testimony from scientists and science educators was a great opportunity for science communication.
However, if you did not hear about the meeting or any of the testimony from scientist or science educators you are not alone. Little to no advertising was put forward to share the preliminary results of learning how the sun functions nor increasing STEM interest for thousands of elementary students.
This opportunity should push scientists to think like marketing specialists on selling the science product to audiences. Bringing a brand to the intellectual ideas and style of science is an essential step for representing one's work on a global scale.
As some political positions attempt to discredit some scientific predictions, much of the underlying science remains credible without much resistance. Introducing novel approaches to science communication is going to result in some backlash as people see threats to current trends and lifestyles. Albeit, many of the people discrediting anthropogenic climate change are acting on the same data to protect their homes from flooding and fire. As statisticians predict the financial losses under the threat of increased natural disasters, companies will not offer insurance without mitigation. Climate scientists feel the threats from strongly opposing viewpoints as a danger to their life’s work. Thus, they have been working on reducing misinterpretation of their data by releasing research synthesis papers for the public. This is the first step to engage the public, but abstract concepts need to be explained at local community level producing memories and not factoids.
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