It should come as no surprise that I place a high value on science communication outside of research and teaching. This blog, my twitter that is primarily devoted to science, popular science pieces that I’ve written, my position with Congressional Affairs at the USFWS, and my current position in science education and outreach at the Koshland Science Museum, seem to paint a decent picture of my dedication to the en devour. And while all of these pursuits vary in their impact, type, time involved, audiences, etc., the one uniting principle is that I am reaching out to an audience that is not in academia.
I don’t think that we should keep pounding our fists about outreach – I think that if you’re reading this blog, you likely think that it is important in some capacity. You all are not my audience. That raises the question, “How do we target new audiences?” That is one of the major questions in my current position at the National Academy of Sciences Koshland Museum. Briefly (full post to come), the museum is all interactive, ranging from hands-on games and activities, to complex interactive exhibits, focused on topics such as climate change and human health. The museum is small and does not try to compete with the Smithsonian Institution. Rather, they have a niche, though they’re trying to expand that niche. One way they do this is through nighttime programs. There have been STEM game nights, discussions on fracking, and panels on renewable energies. Next Wednesday, April 1, the museum is hosting Story Collider, an organization devoted to science storytelling, and I’m telling a story (along with four other current Mirzayan Fellows). Of all the things that I have done to advance the message of science communication and outreach, this will likely have the greatest impact as Story Collider creates a podcast out of their stories and distributes them free of charge. That part is kind of frightening but also an amazing opportunity to tell people about many various aspects of science. There will be stories about the unexpected challenges of field work, discussions of science and religion, and a talk about prioritizing science above all else, just to name a few.
As scientists, we need to be able to talk to people about science. This goes beyond just being able to relay what we do to the public (i.e. elevator talks). We must make science interesting in various aspects of life. Not everything about science has to be so technical that most people just glaze over. It should be fun! It should be engaging! I hope that I have contributed something to that end and I hope that pouring out my love/hate relationship with science to a room full of strangers and the network of the world will help.