Innovation and Communication

By: Daniella Pena

Science communication is particularly essential in today’s world because we are constantly making breakthroughs in various fields. Without communication, this progress would essentially be nonexistent because science is only useful when people have access to it. News outlets typically focus on crime, politics, and nationwide occurrences, often leaving science out of many broadcasts. This is primarily why those interested in keeping up with scientific advances must make a more intentional effort to do so. Social media has become a great resource for this, with articles being spread widely, and various scientific organizations creating pages where the latest scientific news can be accessed.

However, good science communication is a lot more than merely sharing your scientific findings with people. You can present research to millions, but if only a handful of people understand it, and only one person acts on it you didn’t truly “communicate” this science. Just as people have to make an effort to access this information, scientists have to make an effort to present it in a manner that is engaging, understandable, and inspiring. Missing any of these qualities, scientific presentations might be watched, but ignored; heard, but confused; or seen, but forgotten.

It is crucial to keep the educational levels, cultural beliefs, and personal values of the audience in mind and tailor presentations to both their interests and comprehension levels. Scientific advancement has the potential to improve everyone’s life, but the mechanisms through which this can occur are often unclear. For example, just this past weekend many people were excited to watch the space launch. However, although a very small percentage of the population identifies themselves as “rocket scientists,” and even fewer will ever have the opportunity to go into space themselves, this technology is extremely valuable. Recent research shows that the low gravity environment of outer space may be the perfect place to 3-D print organs, and this has the potential to save a lot of lives. However, this information was not presented alongside the space launch coverage, which meant that while this was definitely an engaging event that was shared widely, we stopped talking about it soon after. This wouldn’t be the case if the public had greater access to all the possibilities that can exist with space exploration. Further, the fact that biology and astronomy can come together to produce amazing things shows that nearly every branch of science can be combined with another to produce further advancements for the world as a whole.

This highlights the other important aspect of science communication. Not only do scientists need to learn how to effectively communicate with the public, scientists themselves need to be able to communicate with each other. Science is a competitive field, however, with the current pandemic that we are experiencing scientists all over the world have come together to develop a vaccine. Labs that were previously doing other research have put their resources, staff, and time into COVID-19 research because it is absolutely necessary to develop a vaccine before the world can return to normal. This wouldn’t be possible without a lot of communication amongst scientists from all parts of the world. Scientists often have transferable laboratory skills, but they still need training to effectively switch over to research they don’t have experience with. It was through science communication amongst those very familiar with this research and those simply willing to learn to join the fight that we are now very close to vaccine development. Although it will ultimately be one lab that discovers an effective vaccine, it is the collective effort of the science community that ultimately produced this result.

Science and scientific communication go hand in hand more than ever in today’s world. In prior years we didn’t have access to the technology we have today, and this increased the time it took for any news to be communicated to the public. However, we now have both the technology and the platforms to deliver the most current scientific information to large audiences almost immediately. Scientists have increasingly used social media to communicate their research, and this has proven to be a good strategy for informing the public. Often, if relevant material is impactful enough to one person they can share this with their entire social network with the click of a button. Science has more influence and support than it ever has due to this increased communication, but just as science is a constantly evolving field, science communication must be continuously improved to keep up with these developments and allow them to have the greatest impact they can have.

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