I want to write about a concept that I first heard described by Chris Mooney during an NSF workshop on how we, as scientists, should "become messengers" of knowledge for the general public. Specifically, we was calling for us to become "Deadly Ninjas of Scientific Communication." He has also written about the topic here. His concept, and the concept of the entire workshop, is that scientists 1) are not great about communicating their to the general public and that 2) this lack of communication leads to misunderstandings, misgivings, and confusions about data interpretation and the value of science research.
It's not that we need to become self-promoting, self-centered blowhards. Nor do we need to follow Mooney's lead and become science journalists. We simply need to convey our passion about what we do. Not in an over-the-top kind of way, but more matter-of-factly. In the elevator. At the grocery store. On the soccer field, talking to other parents. Science and research should not be mysterious - it needs to be attainable and concrete for people to understand the importance these activities have to their everyday life.
Through these "sneak attacks" of information we disseminate a message that I feel has been lost. Science is awesome and can help us understand the world around us. I hate the fact that our society puts someone's ability to sing or play a sport above their ability to think critically and be rational. For that, to me, is the essence of being a scientist. And the reason that anyone can be scientific.
We need to stop hiding in the ivory tower and realize that we need to get people motivated about research of all kinds. Pound the pavement and drum up support for science. R&D has and will continue to drive most advances in our lives. Technology, medicine, and our economy have been shaped by the work of scientists.
And I think we should be rockstars for our efforts.
But in the meantime, I will satisfy myself with sharing my story. Of what I do and why I do it. Sharing what got me interested in science in the first place. Getting people interested in science, making science accessible. Hoping that I can inspire the next generation to list "scientist" along with football player, fireman, and police officer when they describe what they want to do when they grow up.
Can I get an Amen?