So I was a bit daunted by the task of trying to describe the excellent departmental colloquium we had here at USC Physics and Astronomy, mainly because I just did that long post just before this one on Categorically Not!, and I’m really quite a bit tired and still have to do a ton of stuff before going to sleep.
It was by the science writer (and now USC professor) KC Cole, and the title was “Lost in Translation: Writing about Science for the General Public”. Excellent title. Very very interesting topic, don’t you think, given all that we’ve discussed here and all that I have been known to rant (a bit) about here on the issue.
But guess what? It turned out (thanks to a quick google-blogs search) that another blogger came to the colloquium and did a post on it! So I don’t have to! Great stuff!…Please follow the link to it here. Whoever you are…thanks!
So I get to just say that it was a really fantastic presentation, and pop up a couple of pictures of KC in action, and urge you to read the post of the blogger, and comment here and there if you like:
As the blogger noted, some people (including them) had to sit on the stairs. This was because we had an excellent turnout, by physics department members from all groups who had a genuine interest (and told me that they really enjoyed the (unusual for a colloquium) topic and speaker) and from people from several other departments (not just science ones, but the school of journalism, the Dean’s office, etc). Here’s a shot of a bit of the audience….
On the subject matter itself (and the depressing and often comical state of science journalism in some prominent circles), we laughed, we cried…. we wondered what we could do to make it all better.
(1) Letters to your editor (suggested by KC) is one important way. Why does the LA Times not have a science section any more? Where is the actual science coverage in that paper now? Why did the Guardian abandon theirs? (Has their promise to put science routinely all through the newspaper come off? Is the science still good? Easy to find? I don’t know……I’ve not been reading the print version any more…. do tell if you know…)
(2) Another is to make sure that those young people in science, or in the arts, who might end up writing for newspapers one day (or editing them) get to know the importance of science in our society, and how we can’t have a real democracy if most of our population can’t make informed decisions about some of the big ticket items in politics today that affect our future and our quality of life…… yes, the ones which are all about science. Get them learning how to write, how to communicate the content as honestly as possible.
(3) Another is to, well, blog about the issue. And blog about your science. Practice writing for (and explaining science to) others as much as you can. The readers and the science writers will take notice and come to you, and maybe eventually some of the editors (the biggest part of the problem) will take notice too. If the editors (and writers) don’t take notice soon enough, they will become irrelevant anyway since (if this blogging lark continues to mushroom) more and more people get will continue to their science from sources closer to the producers of the knowledge….the web/blogosphere.
That latter possibility/probability is a big part of the reason I’m doing this blogging gig.