Discovering the world of scicomm
Although I started my PhD with an unwavering passion and bright-eyed enthusiasm for research, about halfway in to my PhD there felt like there was something missing. I was a student with a single focus – my PhD. As a young scientist with a variety of experience, I wanted more from science but I couldn’t put my finger on what. As with any other life-problem, I consulted google and starting searching for blogs about the experiences of other PhD students – did they feel the same way? Within an hour I had fallen down the rabbit hole of science blogging, and after a few more hours I had created a Twitter account and was searching the ‘scicomm’ hashtag.
The more blogs and twitter threads I read surrounding scicomm, the more I needed to be involved, and the more I realized that I LOVED teaching other people about science in general conversation. Of course scientists need to communicate their work! Of course science needs to be more inclusive! Of course the public need a greater awareness of the science around them! It all just made sense.
Scicomm is brilliant because it bridges the gap between scientific research and public opinion. For many people, their only source of science is the media, which can be exaggerated and skewed. However, for the general public, it is not up to them to question the reliability of tabloid science. To increase public understanding and trust in scientists, it is our responsibility to communicate in an effective and approachable manner. Science isn’t just about cold, hard facts, and scicomm can spark the curiosity of people, and help them to connect with science and the world around them.
On a personal level, getting stuck into scicomm has allowed me to explore my creative side with my blog and my writing, and it has also brought about some exciting new opportunities.
This is then beneficial for everyone, as science has an impact on every human on the planet. A more positive relationship between scientists and the public can have a positive influence on policy and society. This can help the public to make more informed decisions. For example, advancements in the fields of biomedical science can influence national vaccination programmes and NHS healthcare strategies. Chemical and biological research can lead legalization and classification of various drugs and the safety of food manufacturing. Technological advancements can influence national security and data protection. Research in engineering progresses the infrastructure of buildings, train services, and generally the towns and cities around us.
Behind every scientist is a person
As well as this, it allows scientists to share their ‘human’ side. The life of a scientist is not well-known and is rife with stereotypes and fear; communicating science helps to give ‘non-sciencey’ people an insight into day to day life in the lab. Plus, it can transform learning about science from a typical classroom setting or textbook-based approach, to an informal dialogue about cool stuff. This can be particularly valuable in engaging young minds and inspiring them to pursue further education in STEM subjects.
On a personal level, getting stuck into scicomm has allowed me to explore my creative side with my blog and my writing, and it has also brought about some exciting new opportunities. When PhD work isn’t going very well, it can keep the motivational cogs turning in your brain and allows you to take control of science, even when you can’t control your lab work – scicomm can be rewarding when research isn’t, so it is personally and professionally worthwhile to pursue both of these in parallel. It also helps you to become more in tune with your strengths and weaknesses as a scientist – be that writing, public speaking, or even just your overall confidence.
In conclusion, scicomm is just great. We live in an age where social media is a powerful tool – why not use this to inspire the next generation of scientists, demystify relatable science, and keep scientific conversations going.