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A long time away and #WhySciComm is important

November 12, 2013

I’ve not posted in a few months now. This is pretty rare and pretty sad for me, given that I love writing and thoroughly embrace science communication as a worthwhile pursuit for my own personal gain and for the benefit of others.

But a few lunch time chats today have inspired me to give up that excuse I was telling myself, one that is all too common as a reason not to partake in science communication work – ‘I don’t have time’. I do today, it might be 1030pm, after a 12+ hour day working on my first, first author paper but today I’m compelled to share some experiences about why science communication is important.

I’ve been working away from my university office lately, with some colleagues who work at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I’ve really been enjoying working there, finding that the close proximity to my supervisor and others in my field has really stimulated the analysis that’s going in to my final thesis write up and first paper. They’re a pretty awesome bunch, and so conversations away from our optics work are usually always fun and interesting too. Today at lunch we got on to a conversation about interactions between science and policy makers and eventually digressed to the topic of social media.

I’ve seen a sceptical response to social media among many senior scientists I’ve worked with, usually justified with a variety of pretty compelling reasons: “But emails alone are stressful enough”, “I already spend enough time on my computer”, “Im too busy”, “I think I’m too old for this”. Though our discussion was entirely pleasant and everyone listened with interest to my experiences around science and social media, I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed that I couldn’t adequately instill the passion I have for science communication (especially via social media) in them.

My lunch companions had asked a variety of questions but mostly focussing on “does it work?”. It’s a pretty broad question, very much depending on what you consider the goals of science communication to be. But I decided to do something proactive, and turn to the online community that I value so much to help me answer this question. I started my first hashtag!

After chatting with my good friend Liz (@esargent184), another passionate scicomm-er with whom I stayed recently in Southampton and @matthew_vdh, it occurred to me to just ask the wider twitter community #WhySciComm?

In a typically beautiful fashion that only seems to happen through twitter, numerous responses started appearing, my iphone buzzing away crazily next to me whilst I tried to understand my single scattering albedo results…

As well as provoking me in to really thinking about why I like #scicomm, scientists and other tweeps from around the world provided some fantastic insight in to why they think science communication has value:

And they are still coming, with secondary discussions popping up about what the limitations are for conducting science communication. I’ve made about 30 new connections today alone on twitter through people I’ve followed/who’ve followed me.

I’m hoping over lunch tomorrow, I can show my colleagues this response and maybe it will help inspire them the way it has inspired me.

Pop over to the #WhySciComm hashtag and join in the conversation!

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