If you were to ask anyone “Is science important?” The grand majority of individuals would likely say, “Yes”. But ask them if they are aware that laboratories close every day due to a lack of funding or of the dramatic drop in funding for NASA since its inception then you might hear something different.
I mentioned before that one of the reasons we decided to start Flux was to help those understand science by helping you answer the question, “Why is the world how it is?” There have been many attempts at trying to distribute information among the public for many, many decades.
So why is it that there is so much that the public doesn’t know?
It is a fact that organizations such as Scientific American and Nature are important platforms for people to find out what big news is occurring in the various fields of science. However, despite their missions, which are, summarily, to help quickly disseminate the results of scientific research to the public. what they publish is either not complete, not understandable, not interactive or any combination of the three.
That said, as easily as I could post individual examples here, I don’t want you to believe that I am only picking articles from individual writers or that there is one here or there that is hard to digest. I urge you to look at Scientific American’s Medicine section or Nature’s website to get an idea of my point.
It should come as no surprise as to why accessibility is the topic of The Torrent this time around. To preface the need for accurate and coherent science communication, I want to provide an example.
Lost in Discussion
When I worked in research, I found myself in a situation in which my coworkers questioned how to explain their research to the laboratory’s donors. Although the science was complicated, I had suggested the use of analogies to communicate the meaning. I was told at that time that it wasn’t so easy. I, of course, disagreed.
This interaction told me an entire story about how difficult it is for the world’s scientists to communicate with lay people. Think about this for a moment: how many events can you immediately think of for ordinary people to come and ask questions on research? How much would you be able to follow in a conversation between two research scientists?
The problem such a lack of communication causes, despite the unjust framing of scientists as cold and unfeeling or evil geniuses, is a lack of empathy. The scientific community is experiencing a crisis when it comes to its funding within the United States. Naturally, that leads to slowed innovation, which is a shame for a nation with such a storied history and historic wealth. This, naturally, doesn’t change without a massive organization of concerned individuals that are aware of the use of scientific research.
We have a problem in science communication that the leading names in science writing are not helping to address due to their lack of properly addressing the public. This is creating a lack of awareness in the advances of science, even if they’re reported, bringing people to the belief that big discoveries, which are made more frequently than not, only happen once in a while.
How else, then, do they understand the importance of keeping science funded when it has no instant or frequent effect on their lives? What will drive them to ask why the world the way it is?