Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Future of Science Communication

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned the rapid changes that are taking place in how science is communicated. Some people think that we are at the cusp of a revolution in how science is reported by scientists. I described earlier how some scientists are beginning to delve into the use of video or similar approaches to showcase their research on websites or as a way to illustrate a scientific method rather than a text description.

When I mention such ideas to colleagues, I get three reactions: 1) I’m already using video to illustrate my work, 2) that’s neat--how do I learn to do that?, and 3) I don’t have time to fool with that stuff.

I remember when Powerpoint was first used at science conferences.  There was a lot of grumbling from participants about newfangled computer graphics and how their 35 mm slides (or overhead transparencies!!) were good enough. I can even remember when the first scientists switched from black text on white background to white text on blue background (diazo processing). That caused quite a stir!

There were always lots of skeptics who said these new ways of giving presentations were just fads and would never catch on.

I also distinctly remember trying to convince my spouse that he needed to get a computer. This was the early 80s and I was one of the first in the lab to get a computer (a Mac). His response was that he had a secretary to do his typing and in any case he thought personal computers were not going to catch on. A bit later, I recall going into his office and saying, “You know, I think this Microsoft company is going to be big. Maybe we should invest?” Eventually, of course, he got a computer, but dismissed the idea of investing in Microsoft (and now claims he does not remember these early conversations).

My point is that things are constantly changing. Some people have to be dragged into the future while others are madly sprinting ahead of the crowd. Scientists are natural skeptics (as they should be) about new ideas, methods, etc. However, things are changing so fast, that it’s easy to get left behind if you don’t make an effort to be somewhat open to new ways.

Probably most of you who read this blog are relatively young and are wondering what I’m talking about. But I imagine you know some dinosaurs in your departments who resist every single change that comes along. Don’t let them discourage you from trying new approaches to communicating your science.

1 comment:

Aurora said...

Great posts, including this one. Only thing I have to say is sometimes including too much technology in teaching is a distraction from content for both professor and student.