Interview with @dr_leigh on Science Comms

I interviewed Dr Leigh, of #overlyhonestmethods fame, about why science communication is important in ‘The Looking Glass’.

You can also read a more in-depth, separate interview by Speaking of Science here.

We spoke to Dr Leigh, a post-doctoral research neuropharmacologist and author of the blog ‘neurodynamics’. Recently she came into the scientific public eye as the ‘founder’ of the scientific twitter craze ‘#overlyhonestmethods’ (some of our favourites can be found on the following pages).

Why do you think science communication is important?

I think that doing science is only part of the scientist’s job description. We absolutely have to talk about science outside of our professional circles and work to make science a part of the general public awareness. Often our work is funded publicly, so we can be reasonably expected to be able to describe the gains provided by the public’s investment. But making the public aware of our work may help us out in return- well-informed people who understand the benefit of science, who feel confident that science is making advancements in society, are more enthusiastic about continuing to support science! We exist in this mutually beneficial state that takes attention on our part to maintain publicly, so we can be reasonably expected to be able to describe the gains provided by the public’s investment. But making the public aware of our work may help us out in return- well-informed people who understand the benefit of science, who feel confident that science is making advancements in society, are more enthusiastic about continuing to support science! We exist in this mutually beneficial state that takes attention on our part to maintain.

What can people, especially students, do to get involved in science comms?

When you’re a student it’s a great time to get started communicating science with the world around you, but anyone can get involved. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. It can be as simple as sharing your enthusiasm for science by pointing out a cool natural phenomenon/technology/medical practice/policy decision (and many more!) and the science behind it, or having an “elevator pitch” – a brief description of who you are and what you do that would make sense to anyone you may encounter while you’re out and about. Somewhat more formal ways might include sharing scientific stories or facts of interest on a blog, or on twitter, or even in your facebook feed. But really, I think your day to day communications and actions on their own go a long way to show that scientists are just regular folks with a cool job, that science is for everyone who’s interested, and there are some really great things we can do with science (and many more yet to be dreamed up).

How, in the new medium of blogging and twitter, has science comms changed, or how does it need to change?

My take is that scientists are more accessible than ever thanks to the internet. There are many of us out there participating in all levels of conversations. I think one thing that could change is that, like most people, we gravitate toward in-group conversation. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I think some well-placed explanations to keep the conversations accessible to someone without the highly specialized knowledge would keep the communications more open with the general public.

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