Over the past decade, I’ve seen, heard, and participated in the call for more scientists to reach out and communicate what we do beyond the ivory towers of academia in order to improve public understanding of science. I receive a great deal of correspondence from the science community asking how to engage broad audiences, what it looks like, and who to speak with. I’d like to briefly address the final question..
There are many excellent science journalists who inhabit the blogosphere and those mainstream news outlets that still feature science sections. These talented individuals want to share your story, your research, and they appreciate and value what you do.
However, there are also a lot of horrible journalists making the rest of us look bad.. Writers who care less about getting it right, and more about trumping up controversy. Journalists whose headlines are notoriously misleading or false. Some make up quotes without speaking to you. Others pair your story with pseudoscience, giving both so-called “sides” equal space. And so on..
The take home message is this: It’s not just the responsibility of scientists to reach out. It’s also on science journalists. And we need more skilled, credible, and honest storytellers doing their part to get the narrative right–particularly on topics like climate science, vaccination, and energy. Having a science background is an asset, not a hurdle for this trajectory.
Yes, I encourage scientists to speak to journalists – but do your homework first. Forge relationships with writers you trust. I also want to encourage science students passionate to make a difference to seriously consider pursuing science journalism. Not as an “alternative career” if your research doesn’t work out, but as a competitive and extremely challenging occupation.
Science is under siege. The pressure is mounting and we’re losing important battles in policy and the public arena. But it’s not too late. We need new soldiers–a resurgence of excellent science journalists.