Driving to the lab this morning, I was floored to hear my email (concerning this post) read on Thursday’s episode 788 of Buzz Out Loud, CNET’s podcast of indeterminate length ™. If you don’t already listen to this podcast, I highly recommend it. It’s a great source of daily tech news and commentary, perfect for long commutes.
Science, to me, is absolutely fascinating. I don’t always understand everything I read, nor is it always immediately clear what a given development may mean in the big picture, but the development and attainment of new knowledge is a wonderful and noble achievement that has never failed to grab my attention. But not everyone is quite so excited by science. That’s why we have the wonderful people at Radiolab, WNYC‘s radio program which (I know this is stereotyped) makes science fun. The hosts Robert Krulwich and Jad Abumrad have an incredible talent for bringing science to life in ways I never thought possible. Through radio interviews, fantastic sound engineering, beautiful metaphors and vivid, detailed imagery, the two hosts carefully guide the listener away from the murky jargon of typical science reporting and into a new world, one dominated by the narrative of science.
In his recent commencement speech at Caltech to the graduating class of 2008, Robert Krulwich encouraged the new graduates to take an active role in communicating science to the masses. The speech is recorded and distributed as a podcast episode of Radiolab, titled “Tell Me A Story” – I highly recommend checking it out. I think it’s really great and definitely worth the listen (however, according to a commenter, parts are not necessarily accurate). This speech, and Radiolab in general, prove that science isn’t only about fancy math and big words. There’s the serendipity, the hard work, the new ideas – the “how” and “why” of research. That’s what can and will get the public interested.
We need more people like Robert and Jad, scientists and journalists alike, to step up to the plate and take the initiative to make science open to the public in an informative and engaging way. I think Jonah Lehrer deserves praise for this. His blog, along with his many articles in Seed and The New Yorker, are very successful in conveying good, solid information in a readable and interesting way. Brian Greene is also doing some great things in New York City with the World Science Festival, an event I sorely regret being unable to attend this year.
What do you think? What role should scientists play in publicizing science? Is this the job of journalists, or should scientists themselves take an active role in this process? Comment below, or email me at neurotechnica shifttwo gmail dot com.