Science Communication or Scientist Communication?
How can we speak to the public about science when as scientists we don’t even speak to each other?
I’m not talking to you.. © Copyright niklasgyori (Niklas Györi) and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons
Scientists study microscopic details but what about the big picture?
Edge of the Earth (NASA, International Space Station Science, 10/04/03) © Copyright NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en).
If a system is multi-faceted but all the facets only work individually, how do we change the system?
Photogamer: Feb 2, 2008 “Toy” © Copyright shannonpatrick17 and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons
These are all questions I have been asking myself over the last couple of days during my Animal nutrition lectures. Yesterday, I asked a visiting lecturer how his type of diet would affect the behaviour of the pigs he was feeding and ultimately how it would affect their welfare, a relationship that has been researched by animal welfare scientists, but he didn’t have an answer.
I then had another visiting lecturer tell me that extremely fast growth and extremely high productivity in animals were completely natural processes that nutritionists just exploit. But animal welfare scientists have been researching the detrimental effects of productivity being pushed so far in broiler chickens that their genetics and their diets pose huge health and welfare concerns. This doesn’t seem natural to me.
Chicken © Copyright Inverness Monster Science Festival and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en).
It then struck me that although these people were extremely talented and well respected in their area of expertise that hadn’t looked into the other components that make up the whole system. It wasn’t that they didn’t care about the impacts of their work on other facets of the farming system or that they lacked knowledge. The problem was that they had never talked to the scientists doing the research in other related areas of animal science and they had never come together with those scientists to try and solve the problems on a systems level.
It seems to me that this is not just a problem in my area of study but in all sciences across the board. Collaboration is a rare and undervalued commodity indeed. It’s about time scientists started to work together and share and learn from one another, not that they’ll always agree of course, but perhaps bigger problems could be solved and a more united front presented to the public.
If you would like to find out more about growth, productivity and broiler welfare this is a useful paper:
Dawkins, M., & Layton, R. (n.d). Breeding for better welfare: genetic goals for broiler chickens and their parents. Animal Welfare, 21(2), 147-155.
And if you would like to find out about how diet can affect behaviour (specifically high fibre and level of aggression in sows) this is a useful paper:
V, D., & Ellen-Margrethe, V. (n.d). Dietary fibre for pregnant sows: effect on performance and behaviour. Animal Feed Science And Technology, 90(The Role of Dietary Fibre in Pig Production), 71-80. doi:10.1016/S0377-8401(01)00197-3