Last week, Ed Rajotte, Julie Urban, Cherie Winner, and Joyce Sakamoto all met with CIDD graduate students to discuss the importance of communicating our science with the general public. Even with their different experiences from being the editor of the university’s research journal to being the head of the IPM programs across Pennsylvanian farms, the invited guests all agreed that communicating ones research to a diverse audience was a necessity. All speakers provided their unique insights for why science communication is essential for any researcher.
The first half of the round table discussion emphasized that science-communication is vital to our careers. Specifically, we need to communicate our science well to be noticed and to be successful. For example, funding sources take notice when third parties endorse our research and collaborations are more readily found when people know who you are and what you do. Before the Internet, Ed Rajotte stated that there was a limited number of outlets to showcase our research. Now, we are fortunate to have numerous channels (social media, open source journals, etc.) to scientifically engage different audiences from young elementary students to government officials.
Additionally, we discussed how communicating our science is important as our research is supported by taxpayers. Joyce Sakamoto emphasized that one of the responsibilities that a researcher has is to engage and inform the general public about their projects. As a science writer, Cherie Winner continued this conversation by emphasizing that how we talk to the audience decides whether the engagement was successful or not. She laments that academics utilize too much jargon and unfortunately, are not aware of it. Julie Urban pointed out that we must respect our audience by not utilizing too much technical lingo and at the same time, not inadvertently insult our audience by being patronizing. How do we better communicate about our research so that the public get some insight on what we do? Cherie Winner, had a simple answer, “Practice”.
The casual round-table discussion helped enforce the important societal role of scientists in these turbulent political times. However, this also highlighted the fact that we must emphasize effective science communication more and further practice this vital skill.
The bottom line: Do good science and do good science communication.