Photos: Possibly my nerdiest T-shirt; and town of Norris Point, Newfoundland. Both CC BY 4.0.
Recently, I had to drop off a cheque at my university’s Donor Relations office. I was run off my feet that day, but that office is only one building away from mine, so I figured I could pop over and be back at my desk in 3 minutes flat. I was wrong. It was more like 20 minutes, and the extra 17 were because I was wearing my “Two bees or not two bees” T-shirt.
I wear a lot of nerdy biology T-shirts, and one of the useful (I believe) results of that is occasional bouts of what I call Accidental SciComm. Continue reading
Last week, I asked for advice on preferred terminology for what’s often referred to as a “lay audience”. I’d been uncomfortable with that term, because to some ears it carries an unfortunate implication of scientists as a priesthood. I did wonder, to be honest, whether I might be the only one who cared, but that clearly isn’t the case – responses were thick and enthusiastic both in the Replies and on Twitter. (Only 5% of poll respondents picked the option “Holy overthinking it, Batman”.) I’ll report here on the poll results and on the other suggestions people offered for better terminology. But I’ll also build from that to a more general and very important point about writing – one that emerged from discussion around the poll that was, happily, much more interesting that I expected. Continue reading
Stephen Jay Gould quote from izquotes.com
Over the years, I’ve frequently needed to refer to that set of people who are not trained as scientists. It comes up in “broader impacts” sections of grants, in proposals to support science communication activities, in discussions of how to motivate societal and political support for science, and lots of other places besides. It’s come up for me most recently as I work on a new book proposal. My first book, The Scientist’s Guide to Writing, was written for scientists, but this one* will be written for – well, describing that audience of people who are something other than scientists is what this post is about.
My go-to term has been “lay audience”, but I’ve always felt a slight but nagging discomfort with it. Continue reading
Warning: mostly navel-gazing, albeit with some thoughts about SciComm and the openness of science.
I didn’t know much about the blogosphere before Scientist Sees Squirrel was born. Turns out maybe I still don’t, since I’m asking the rather obvious question in the title of this post.
So is Scientist Sees Squirrel a “science blog”? Well, it’s about science (inasmuch as it’s about anything), so in that sense, surely the answer should be “yes”. But I’ve just read Science Blogging: The Essential Guide, and according to that book, the answer is pretty clearly “no”. This surprised me a little, but it also crystallized something I’d been wondering rather vaguely about anyway: what is, and what should be, my audience here? Continue reading
In my last post, I asked what UpGoer Five (along with its constrained-vocabulary ilk) is for. Survey says: UpGoer Five is a toy.
At least, that’s what my readership poll (data above) says. The sample size is small, and it’s an utterly unscientific poll (more about that later). But 63% of respondents believe UpGoer Five is a kind of stunt writing, something we might do for fun, but having no connection to actual science communication/outreach (“SciComm”). Continue reading
Image: just a portion of the original “Up Goer Five” cartoon, diagramming a Saturn V rocket.
Like a lot of people, I’ve been enjoying the “Up Goer Five” phenomenon. If you don’t know about it (unlikely!), it started as an xkcd cartoon in which Randall Munroe labelled a diagram of a Saturn V rocket using only the thousand most common words in the English language. Munroe followed it up with a book along the same lines, Thing Explainer, and the idea really took off, with scientists in all disciplines trying their hands at it. It came up most recently for me because the 2016 meeting of the Ecological Society of America had an Up Goer Five session. I wasn’t able to get to any of it, but I got a taste via Twitter and via titles and abstracts posted online and around the convention centre.
Up Goer Five is fun – tons of it. But I have the unsettling feeling that I’m missing something, because I don’t quite understand what Up Goer Five is for. Or at least, I can see three things that people may think it’s for, but they seem at odds with each other, and I’m not convinced that any of the three does more good than harm. Continue reading
Image: From Science Borealis’ project “100 Voices for Canadian Science Communication”; © The Vexed Muddler, reproduced with permission. That’s me as a Cobblestone Tiger Beetle, Cicendela marginipennis – a beautiful beetle, vulnerable because of its locally rare and very scattered distribution in riverbank cobble habitats from Alabama to New Brunswick.
Some months ago, the Canadian blogging aggregator Science Borealis solicited thoughts about what lay science communication, or SciComm, is and why it’s important. I sent in the thoughts above and promptly forgot about it. Last week I was startled, pleased, and just the tiniest bit uneasy to see my quote making the rounds on Twitter and Facebook (wonderfully illustrated by The Vexed Muddler).
Why uneasy? Continue reading