By: Logan Long
Today almost every aspect of our lives consists of science, whether through healthcare, housing, the environment we live in, the food we eat, or even the cars we drive. More than ever, the need for science is evident, especially amidst the COVID pandemic.
Effective science communication has the power to ignite a stronger cohesion between society and the scientific community. A stronger union promotes innovation and collaboration for issues the world is facing today. When scientists have adequate communication with their non-scientist audience, it helps build support for science and provides an understanding of its relevance. Public awareness encourages more informed decision making from the government at all levels. Science communication can affect science-related legislation and budget from different agencies to increase funding for certain scientific advancements.
Science communication has the roles of educating, informing, and raising awareness of science-related topics while also making it comprehensible to the public. However, in the past, the overall communication of science was declining. Crucial data seemed withheld due to researchers waiting to be published in well-known peer-reviewed journals or trying to maintain secrecy and credibility for their findings. There were also many barriers to consider when communicating science to the public, such as limited access, lack of understanding, or lost opportunities. Many scientists also stress that lack of public engagement is one of the biggest inhibitors to communicating findings primarily due to difficulty in explaining complex scientific concepts in layman terms. Thus, the world needs to have dedicated and avid science communicators.
Today anyone can be a science communicator since loads of information is available through blogs, Facebook, Instagram, and other forms of online media. Online science journalism provides a significant role of transmitting data from the scientist to the public. Social media has also made it easier for people to have discussions about scientific topics. A prime example is the communication about COVID 19 through the use of social media and other digital forums. It is an effective way to combat COVID to ensure science communication is maintained by continuing dialogue about the risks through interviews, podcasts, blogs, and social media.
Despite social media providing a unique platform to present ideas and topics about science, it’s susceptible to false and misinformation. Using COVID as an example again, those communicating are at risk of not only oversimplifying information but for causing people to disregard or recognize the correct information already out there. Frequently, scientific evidence is also sensationalized, where journalists overreach or are entirely wrong about the subject. Consequently, science has the dual role of issuing knowledge as well as panic for society.
The world already has a history of public skepticism with scientists, as we have seen with Copernicus’s heliocentric theory and even Darwin’s theory of Evolution. Therefore during a public health emergency such as this one where anxiety is at an all-time high, uncertainty and fear caused by misinformation can lead to potentially dangerous consequences. Hence, there is an urgent need for scientists to be valid science communicators themselves to share accessible and accurate scientific information.
Good science communication has the ability to remedy situations of panic and provide a greater understanding of relevant research and their trials and successes. Increasing the relevance builds support as well as advocacy and funding for critical research. Successful science communication has the power to reduce the number of people in the dark about the pandemic and supply them with knowledge. Therefore, the fewer people uninformed, the less likely the virus will spread.
As future scientists, it’s essential to promote science to a broad audience to inspire change within the community. It’s important to participate in public dialogue since public opinion has a tremendous impact on public policy. It’s also vital to close the gap between what scientists assume the public knows and what the public knows. Ultimately, effective communication helps get a clearer understanding of how science impacts people’s daily lives and behaviors.