Bare Bones Biology 108 – Scientific Communication

Today we’ll hear from Elizabeth Daut, who is a PhD candidate with the Applied Biodiversity Science program at Texas A&M University. She and several other students are working on a project to improve scientific communication.

I am part of a program called Applied Biodiversity Sciences. As part of this program we are working on this project to really integrate different components of the biodiversity conservation community, and help foster communication and collaboration across the different disciplines that are directly involved with conservation or even somewhat remotely involved. The objective is to provide the information that scientists may need that the public may need, foster those links to help develop interdisciplinary projects.

It’s an interesting problem that we have. The communication issues between scientists and nonscientists; but then also between scientists and other scientists. And there are many reasons. One is that scientists are innately drawn to nuances, the details of their research, the nitty-gritty information. They’re searching for discrete answers. And when they try to explain their results to the public, they go straight to the small nuances, versus painting the big pictures in broad strokes, which is easier to understand.

Another issue is that scientists are often reluctant to promote their research. One of the axioms of science is that of maintaining your objectivity, and once you put in opinions or subjectivity, then it’s almost as if that scientist will lose credibility within the scientific community. So there’s this real reluctance to speak out and to speak directly with the public. So it’s a combination of problems of why there is such poor communication between scientists and the public, but it’s not only problems between scientists and the public, but between scientists and other scientists of different disciplines.

This is a real issue, particularly when you are looking at big problems that are affecting society, that are affecting the globe, like climate change or conservation issues. These are problems that need scientists from all different disciplines to try to solve some of these problems. What we’re finding is that scientists in one discipline, for example conservation biologists or conservation scientists, don’t communicate with social scientists, who may be able to understand the public and society and give insight as to why some of these conservation problems exist at the social level.

What we’re trying to promote, is this increased communication and collaboration among different scientific disciplines. It’s almost as if they need to learn the language of the other scientific discipline.

The best medium to do such communication is on the internet, and what we’re suggesting is to host an on-line platform, a hub, that can foster communication between different disciplines for the benefit of the environment, of biodiversity conservation, and really encourage collaboration and understanding among different scientific disciplines and nurture collaboration in the conservation community.

Bare Bones Biology 108 – Scientific Communication
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