On creativity and science

Just a couple of weeks ago, I gave a talk at the joint annual meeting of the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution and the Ecological Society of America. It was, admittedly, a weird one, and I thought I’d record a version of it for those who might have been interested but couldn’t be there in person.

My talk consisted of some reflections on creativity in science, and in writing about science. It was part of a fascinating symposium, organized by Madhur Anand and titled “Re-visioning Ecology: How Creative Writing Can Connect and Reveal Scientific Truths”. The participants were Madhur (a poet and award-winning memoirist), Jan Conn (a poet and biologist), Adam Dickinson (a poet and professor of poetry), and Catherine Bush (a novelist). (The poet and philosopher Karen Houle was, unfortunately, a late scratch.) And perhaps you’re wondering what on earth I was doing in that distinguished, and very artistic company. I was too.

And that’s essentially what my talk turned out to be: 13 minutes of “What am I doing here?”. But maybe you’ll think (as I do) that it’s a bit more interesting than that sounds. I thought about whether my book Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider might belong to the genre often called “creative nonfiction”, and if it’s creative, what makes it so. And then I thought about how I came to do that kind of more creative writing, from a decided uncreative past writing scientific papers. And finally, I asked myself whether creative writing had fed back to change my scientific writing – and if so, whether the change was a positive one.

If that piques your interest a little, give it a listen. It’s a short talk (pro tip: you can speed up the video and 13 minutes needn’t actually take 13 minutes). And as usual, if you have thoughts about this – surely you do! – use the Replies.

© Stephen Heard  August 30, 2022

Image: Surely it’s not as compartmented as that?  CC0 via Rawpixel.com



1 thought on “On creativity and science

  1. Pingback: On creativity and science – and play! | Scientist Sees Squirrel

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