The Efforts of Science Communication Today

By: Alexis Edmonds

Whether we recognize it or not, each of us are part of a world that is consistently evolving. We tend to hear of a new disease or cure every so often, or an unidentified species of fish or bacteria that has been newly discovered. Previously accepted methods of treatment or diagnosis become deemed as outdated. Every aspect of our life can be explained and even enhanced with new scientific phenomena, so it’s only expected that this information should be delivered to the public in a way that merges the world of scientific research with our everyday lives. I believe that many tend to think of the concept of “science” is an entity separate from us, when in reality we are simply a part of science. When communicating these scientific discoveries, the ultimate goal is to do so in a manner that makes the public excited about the message, apply it to their own lives and spread it to others.

I personally believe that this is the ultimate goal of authors of scientific papers, but there lie many challenges in their intention. According to freelance science writer Lakshmi Supriya, many are under the impression that scientific papers are written for scientists specifically, and as a result shy away from exploring these articles out of their own interest. This can easily be attributed to not only the confusing scientific jargon used, but even less technical words that we are somewhat familiar with but do not use in everyday conversation such as “underlying”, “novel”, and “robust”. This essentially has made papers much harder to read than ever before, even to other scientists, according to recent studies. Additionally, these papers have become even harder for non-scientists to access. A scientific discovery cannot be useful to its fullest potential if it cannot be understood, or even accessed, by the people it affects, which is the general public.

The efforts of science communication today, however, are trying to battle this barrier. Within the past decade the science community has been making an effort to identify the trends in jargon usage and make information much more accessible to the public. Julian Olden, co-director of the Centre of Creative Conservation at the University of Washington, says scientists have become increasingly interested in translating their message into a manner in which the general public can understand and making this information accessible through social media. According to a study of social media users, 26% say they follow a science-related page and 44% say they often see news on social media that they believe they wouldn’t have seen elsewhere. This isn’t surprising because it isn’t uncommon for an average person to check their social media feed before they refer to the television or newspaper for current events. Not to mention, only 44% of American households were subscribed to cable service in 2019 while 87.5% of the U.S. population uses the internet.

I truly believe that there is more effort being put into making the findings of today easier to access and understand by the general public. As we emerge into an era that encourages more engagement in the science that surrounds us, it is vital that we are given the tools necessary to decipher this information, analyze it, and disseminate it in a manner that can get those around us enthused. As someone who often became frustrated when attempting to read scientific papers, I sought different avenues to access information. I frequently referred to infographics and scientific magazines to get a general understanding of a topic. This was a form of science communication. These resources allowed me to grasp the ultimate idea of whatever topic I was interested in and later took it upon myself to dive deeper into the topic on the internet. I feel that today’s efforts of science communication are essential in order to ensure that the general public can go about doing their own research in a way they feel most comfortable and enthused. I am excited to have the opportunity to be on the other side of this relationship, as I am eager to communicate my findings throughout the summer through a similar avenue.

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