The great Science Communication challenge
Previously on, Scientific Scribbles, I have delved a tiny bit into my swimming passion (here), and a lot into my love for marine biology (here, here and here!)… So, I had to really really resist from writing about my one true love, marine biology.
Well okay, it might have a *tiny* bit of marine biology in it…
Do you ever feel like people are switching off and “swimming away” as soon as you mention
Science or your research project??
I thought I would share with you an experience of communicating science to a “lay person”. I took this subject with the intention of getting better at this, and was yet to really have an experience where I had to bring the “big guns” out. Like a good science communicator, I had to think about my audience, I thought about who, what, when, where why and how?
In the midst of writing a literature review, I was speaking to a work colleague about topic of my review. It reviewed management strategies of the invasive algae, Caulerpa taxifolia, colloquially known as Killer Algae. However, the conversation broadened to why we would even care about an invasive seaweed or any other invasive species in the ocean.
This may have been the toughest challenge I have faced so far, not to rely on stereotypes, but the person who I was talking to studies arts and just did not have any understanding of the impacts of invasive species in any context.
It was a real challenge, I had to explain biodiversity, resilience, tropic cascades and how invasive species are impacting native assemblages. All without using any scientific jargon.
Of course, most people find algae boring, even some of you scientists out there think its boring! Well, I used to be the same, until I learnt about their useful traits. I felt that actually seeing things from the perspective of the person who I was communicating to was useful, and was key to my ability to actually have a conversation, rather than just talking to a disengaged listener. Use of a narrative in my “story” helped me explore ideas around invasion biology.
I thought I was doing alright, until I got these questions:
Why should we bother if they have already invaded?
What’s the point of spending money on something that can’t be fixed?
What is the point if invaders are already part of the community?
Tough questions really, but funnily enough, not dissimilar to the questions I had asked myself whilst writing my literature review!
Despite being able to get my message across and convince my colleague partially about the scientific ideas… I wonder if it was effective enough. I wonder if my colleague will engage with the ideas of the conservation. I hope that my conversation has prompted slight interest in scientific issues.
I think my experience really just showed how important “who what when where why and how” is to science communication to you’re average member of the public.
This science communication stuff might have just prompted me to run away and join the CIRCUS!
(Source: Dreamworks Animation – Youtube)
Okay I really mean, this circus!