Over at SciAm today, the first of the week’s guest posts is up! Please head over and read about Rim’s experiences…and what she decided to do about them.
As you may know, I and a bunch of fabulous sciencey people got permission this year to set up a DIY Science Zone at GeekGirlCon! We’ll be making fossils out of coffee grounds, neurons out of pipe cleaners, extracting DNA, genetic taste testing, dancing raisins, and showing the people there that scientists are fun, fantastic people!
But in order to do that…we need to get there, and that means we need money, for travel, supplies, etc. Can you help us out? We’re over halfway to our goal of $6000!
And if you help us out, we will make it worth your while! We will perform highly embarrassing acts of whimsy. We’ve already done some, and they’ve been fabulous! Do you want to see:
Yes. If we raise enough, I will compose you a science song! Haven’t you always wanted one!? For you, I will listed to Miley Cyrus or Gotye, or something else, and you will hear the sweet strains of “Fund Me Maybe.” You know this is what you want.
So please help us out if you can! Help us to spread science to the people!
So a few days ago, Brian of Laelaps and I had a conversation. The conversation went like this:
Sci: Somebody wrote a book where he referred to the “tone” of scienceblogs.com as being bad for science. The book is “Don’t be SUCH a scientist”. Because we are “such scientists”, as in, people who are obsessed with facts and take passion and interest from everything we communicate with. I’m really getting annoyed by this. Though I see the point, in that we all know many scientists can make learning some pretty dry stuff. But look, I’m a communicator, so are you. We write stuff people find entertaining! It’s on a blog for ALL THE WORLD to see, it’s even on the NY Times sometimes. Yet. I get 1500 hits a day. I know twilight fanfic websites that get way more than that. So I’m communicating, and I’m doing it well, and it’s not for lack of exposure…why aren’t people clicking then?
Brian: Yeah, [that scienceblogs reference] I don’t understand how it’s bad for scientists to help more people understand science! I haven’t read “Don’t Be Such A Scientist” yet, but a copy should be coming to my mailbox soon.
Sci: I think I want to post something. Because one wonders. There are those of us out there. Scientists, students of science, etc, who post about science. We try to do it so everyone can understand. It’s interesting, it’s relevant. It’s not fact-obsessed. There are tons of popular science books out there doing the same thing. But NO ONE CLICKS. And no one reads. Scientists might be part of the problem, but we’re not the only ones causing a major lack of interest.
Brian: Well, the people that read us are already interested in science. It’s harder to reach everyone else. You can’t make people care about something if they’re just not that interested. How about we write our own book, “Maybe they’re just not that into science?”
Sci: hehehe. That would be SO FUN! So it comes around again. How do we get people interested. People focus on scientists and science being portrayed as “cool”. But I don’t know if that’s it. People want to become doctors, and doctors are not necessarily cool. They want to become doctors because doctors save people. I want to be a scientist because scientists save the world. Perhaps we should focus more on how people doing science are heroes. Saving the planet, saving people.
So it comes around to how do we get people interested
Brian: Right, and for me, science just had this inexplicable draw. I loved nature, and if I wanted to learn more about nature I knew I would have to become a scientist. Making scientists “cool” will not solve the problem, and it might be a problem we never really solve. We just have to keep working as hard as we can to popularize science.
Sci: But you will contribute to human knowledge. You will inspire, which is very important.
Brian: I think a major improvement would be getting more science-savvy people into mass media outlets to replace some of these journalists who are on the science beat but don’t know a thing about science! I reject this idea that there was some golden age when people respected science all the time and we need to go back. There never was such a time. It’s always been a fight to get people to understand science, but it’s something that is worthwhile.
Sci: Yeah, i definitely agree. People talk about how, during the “space race” people were interested in science. Of COURSE they were. It could come down on their heads any minute. If I were building a fallout shelter and heard about spy satellites orbiting the earth, I’d want to know how they worked, too. But that’s because it’s relevant, not because science was somehow “cooler”. And people NOW are interested in science. They are interested in medicine, in vaccinations and psychiatry, because it’s relevant. It’s something they’re dealing with every day. I don’t think we can say that people are “less” interested in science than they used to be. They are interested in what is relevant to them at the moment.
Brian: Right. Well lots of people are interested in science, it is just what aspect, and to what extent. And it would be great if we could get people excited about science that isn’t directly relevant to their everyday lives, because there’s more to science than just medicine and technology.
And this conversation caused me to do a lot more thinking.