Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Better science communication, throw a party!

A reading for my class from Investigating Science Communication showed that many times, even when dialogue is attempted, scientists feed their knowledge/research to people and questions are encouraged afterward.  This can be very similar to the feared deficit approach.  

In the reading, Davies proposed that scientific dialogue should aim to have an impact on individuals; large scale impacts on science and policy are not always necessary.  To do this, I thought, a more social event should take place.  Scientists may come, give a very brief talk about their work, then they should mingle with the invited and interested public.

There is no need for a stage and auditorium seating; tables, chairs, and a comfortable atmosphere is the proper setting to encourage conversation.  Drinks and appetizers should be available (I recommend a cash bar, as an open bar may get out of hand).  This way people will be able to jump from scientist to scientist, express their views and ask questions, and enjoy their martinis.  When science is communicated in a more personal and conversational way, as Alan Alda related in the video we watched, it is better received and understood.  I think better understanding between scientists and the public may be achieved at an event like this compared to a talk and Q & A session.

Just a thought!


  1. I completely agree on this. I find that having a more informal approach is more friendly and less intimidating than a lecture format where the audience is talked at by the presenter. And of course you can never go wrong with food and drinks!

  2. This would be fun and all and if it happened that way I would go. While it may sound like it is leading up to a "but you have to consider this" statement, its not. Personally I like geology lectures deep in the field.

  3. @GeoJack: I agree about a good lecture. Unfortunately most lay people may need the drinks and appetizers to get them engaged in science.

  4. Ha! A great idea. I think this is the kind of atmosphere the Science Cafe is going for (though there is a lecture/talk first so that people know where to begin the conversation). But the personal interaction is a great idea.

    It does kind of set the scientists up as zoo animals (come and meet a real, live scientist!). But maybe that's necessary.

  5. Yeah, scientists can seem to be a whole different species sometimes (some engineers and myself included), so I do think it's necessary.