Tag Archives: science communication

Knowing, and naming, your audience (with “lay audience” poll results)

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

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Help! What term should we be using for a “lay audience”?

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

The warship Vasa

The warship Vasa and argument from authority

Photos: The Vasa on display in the Vasamuseet, Stockholm, by JavierKohen via Wikimedia.org, CC BY-SA 3.0. Cross-section of Vasa, model in Vasamuseet, photo S. Heard.

I’m writing this post in Stockholm, where I’ve come to be the “opponent” (= external examiner) for a PhD defence. I tacked on a few extra days to see some of the Swedish sights, and none was a bigger treat than the Vasamuseet (Vasa Museum).

The Vasa was a Swedish warship launched on August 10, 1628.  She also sank on August 10, 1628, which was tragic for the 30 people who died in the sinking and a pretty major embarrassment for everyone else in Sweden (then).

Why did the Vasa sink? Continue reading