reflections as a student of science communication


Why choose a to tell one story over another? Sometimes it’s interest, sometimes it’s inspiration, and other times it’s intrusion. I am relatively new to the rising wave emphasizing science communication, but here are a few of my current thoughts dumped into text so I can (hopefully) continue to process them as I learn more.

Science communication is built around telling multi-year stories in mere seconds. As a subset of journalism, it’s natural to gravitate towards exciting discoveries for catchy headlines. Just like journalism, much of science communication (and science in general, for that matter) is laced with competition. There appears to be a select pool of cutting-edge stories– who gets to break news first? Who’s credited with the monumental findings themselves?

At the same time, there are somehow so many stories left unshared outside their publication journals, where they’re broadly distributed yet confined to specific communities. Amidst the culture of academia and a skewed notion of what makes science legitimate, the key aspects of science as observation, experimentation, repetition, and translation across generations are often seen as restricted to expensive methods and accumulated prestige.

NPR science correspondent Joe Palca sums it up well– in a talk he gave on my campus, he said science moves in increments, while media moves in leaps and bounds. Challenges arise in reconciling these conflicting aspects of slow progress and rapid proliferation; garnering interest–much less enthusiasm–tends to require crafting strategic stories that emphasize new science and its connection to everyday life. True, there’s a consistent stream of novel discoveries from scientists everywhere… but, oftentimes, the process of refining those discoveries is lost when the story reaches the media.

Science is people, science is human– this is something I am slowly seeing more of in media, but the hardest-hitting pieces are often much more “sensational” than the scientific process. Science involves bridging perspectives. I’m realizing more and more that as someone emerging into a science communication/education field, I hold the responsibility to tell stories of people underrepresented in science as well as promote respect for multiple methods of observation leading to understanding. In addition to demystifying the scientific method, the narrative of who gets to do science must be changed.

My experiences have been constrained to my small world of art, design, and media in museum spaces. I think about exhibits, panels in public parks, and other conceptual and physical interpretive work. After reading articles, scrolling through Twitter, and learning more about the online world of science communication, I’ve started paying attention to voices that have been prioritized in these physical spaces– whose stories are told, and who gets to tell those stories? I’m still navigating the expansion of the science communication field, but I absolutely believe in the necessity for those in it to think carefully about how stories are chosen and how they are told.

Communicating science is powerful– sitting at the intersection of data analysis and translation to broader audiences is so much room for sensationalization of under-tested discoveries, bias in sharing findings, and washing over the necessity to repeat and confirm experiments. Thankfully, there are many people out there that are extremely thoughtful, and I am excited to keep learning how to evaluate and change my work to amplify voices and stories that must be shared, especially in cases that I am not the right person to do the telling of those stories.

I am hoping to force myself to do more brain dumps on this blog so I can better keep track of things I learn. Year three of college has been a little bit overwhelming, but not necessarily in a bad way– it’s overwhelming in a way that I need to restructure my time so I can capture where I was and where I’m going.

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