What do scientists and science communicators do?

Me presenting a poster about my research at the International Mass Spectrometry Conference (IMSC 2018) in Florence

Among other things, I am a scientist.

Usually people say to me:” Ok, but what do you actually do?”

So, the real question is: what does a scientist do? Scientists are basically curious people, interested in the wonders of the world, who want to crack the secrets of nature.

To do so they (we) apply the scientific method.

The scientific method was first described as a method by Galileo Galilei. It involves six steps:

1. Make an observation –> The lamp is not working

2. Ask a question –> Why the lamp is not working?

3. Form a hypothesis –> Maybe the light bulb is out

4. Make a prediction based on the hypothesis –> If I change the light bulb, the lamp will work again

5. Test the prediction –> Change the light bulb

6. Iterate –> Observe the results. Two possible outcomes are possible:

Option A – the lamp is working. The hypothesis was correct and the light bulb was out;

Option B – the lamp is not working. The hypothesis was incorrect. We need to go back to step 3 and form a new hypothesis.

Now that scientists have their results, they need to communicate them. It is possible to do it in several ways. One is to publish a paper on a scientific journal, such as Nature and Science (the two most famous ones), another way is to participate to congresses. Congresses are a way for scientists from all over the world to meet and discuss their most recent discoveries with posters (see the picture above) or oral presentations.

The big problem here, is that scientists speak a very specific jargon, which is difficult to understand for people without a scientific background. Well, to be honest, also for scientists from other fields. For me it will be almost impossible to understand a paper about the physics of black holes. That is why science communication plays a such important role. A science communicator is the middle man between academic scientists and general public.

So, the question is: can a scientist be also a science communicator? My answer is: he (she) should be both a scientist and a science communicator. Communicate science in a proper way means reach out a lot of people and to convey scientifically accurate messages and -perhaps and hopefully- reduce the number of people reading fake news.

There are a lot of interesting books dealing with the necessity of good and effective science communication, for instance:

Published by Martina Bodner

Biotechnologist, PhD Candidate in Food Chemistry, Science Teacher, STEM and autism advocate, mother.

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