We did a Q&A about the book here that should be of interest to some. I’m going to skip the science-religion stuff, but here are some other important parts of the exchange:
Chris pointed out here that climate change denier extraordinaire Marc Morano may be dead wrong, but he’s articulate, well funded, and there’s no one on the science side that competes with him. What specifically can be done to change that?
It’s simple: Things won’t change until the world of science invests in creating counter-Moranos. There are many talented and extremely young intelligent people in science today who could fill that role, but there is little training available for them, and even less of a career trajectory for them to get there.
Generally, young scientists have been exposed to a very traditional academic menu of courses, when instead it would behoove us to offer more interdisciplinary and media skills to those who are asking for it. And that’s not just to create counter-Moranos; it’s fundamentally necessary to address an imbalance in the academic pipeline today.
Just consider: The last assessment by the National Postdoctoral Association reported that only 7% of those who earn a PhD in science will someday achieve tenured faculty status. Not everyone studying science is interested in that, but the reality is that there simply aren’t enough positions in academia for all the scientists that the system is currently producing. Meanwhile, at the very same time, we need better science communicators, better teachers, and more outreach people who are really good at taking science out into our society.
So the answer is simple: We’ve got to offer today’s young scientists more ways to get to very different careers from the standard academic one. And then we will have our counter-Moranos, as well as many scientists engaged in other important tasks to reconnect science and society.
This is, of course, a central theme of the book–giving young scientists avenues to use their already existent talent and energy to engage with the rest of society.
We also talked about the problem of science on blogs:
You say in the book the bloggers can’t save us, what do you mean?
In 2008, the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that for ever five hours of cable news, you’ll encounter about one minute’s worth of coverage devoted to science and technology. At the same time, newspapers around the country are killing their science beat and firing their science reporters.
The chief thing filling the vacuum are science blogs, which have become simultaneously the best and worst sources of science information. It’s very difficult for many people to access expensive subscription-only scientific journals unless they’re in academia.
Blogs do discuss what’s being published on the front lines of science, but people who write about science on blogs generally only reach an audience that is already interested in reading about…science on blogs. But that’s not America—and that doesn’t bridge the divide.
Indeed, what’s available on “science” blogs also includes awful misrepresentations and distortions of the truth, which have fueled the modern anti-vaccination movement, anti-evolutionists, and most notably, climate change denialism. In fact, the latest Internet poll to determine the “Best Science Blog” awarded one such site the award based on public vote.
There is no doubt that blogging has tremendous positives–we do it after all–but it’s also not a silver bullet solution to the challenges of improving science communication.
You can read the full Q&A here.