Speak Up, Scientists!
If you argue that scientists should try to communicate their ideas and findings more widely, rather than just staying hunched over their microscopes, everyone will nod vigorously. Of course they should, right? They have lots of important things to share with us, from the latest on the eating habits of vampire jumping spiders to the evidence that we’re on the cusp of a life-altering, worldwide catastrophe.
A recent editorial in The Biological Bulletin, for instance, makes the case that if you’re in a lab but not on Twitter, you’re falling down on the job and placing science in a “perilous position.”
But the idea of outreach—the term that’s inevitably applied when scientists talk to nonscientists about science—is complicated. And in the past week several researchers who also blog and Tweet have been explaining why it’s not always so simple.
As Jeanne Garbarino, a postdoc at Rockefeller University, puts it, researchers are “already overburdened with just keeping their laboratories and careers afloat.” She goes on:
I want to come out in defense of scientists. I am growing weary of the blame being placed on them (me) for not “breaking it down” for public audiences. All too often, scientists are painted as elitists who refuse to leave the comfy confines of their ivory towers, when in reality, they are locked in the tower, held captive by the evil stepmother that is our current funding system. Those who place the blame on scientists are just out of touch with the realities of basic science research.