Out in La Jolla a week or so ago, Jeremy Jackson of Scripps pointed out something to me. Our book, Unscientific America, is really only the first of four that are coming out over the next half year or so that focus on the critical importance of science communication–and of figuring out ways of doing it very differently and much more effectively than has been done before.
In other words, this may be the start of a wave. And it’s likely to be a productive wave, as all of the books are different and thus, in a sense, complementary. Here are two of the others, along with Amazon links as I encourage you to pre-order them:
Randy Olson, Don’t Be Such A Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style. The celebrated scientist-turned-filmmaker explains how scientists can “stay true to the facts while tapping into something more primordial, more irrational, and ultimately more human.” Pub date Sept 7, Island Press, book website here. I’ll have much more to say about this one soon–but clearly, it brings the valuable Hollywood and entertainment perspective to the table.
Cornelia Dean, Am I Making Myself Clear? A Scientists’ Guide to Talking to the Public. The New York Times science writer and editor argues that “to convey the facts…scientists must take a more active role in making their work accessible to the media, and thus to the public.” Pub date Oct 15, Harvard University Press. It sounds like Dean’s book will provide much more of a “how to” guide for scientists on speaking with the media–something that we didn’t really include in our book, although I have taught on this and will do so again (with Sheril) at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography this August.
In any case, Dean’s sounds like another important read–and don’t you get the sense that there’s a trend here?
The fourth book….well, I can’t find any info online about it easily, so I will avoid mentioning for now. But I know it’s out there as well.
In sum: Quite a lot of people are thinking about science communication, quite a lot of people are writing about it, quite a lot of people are realizing that there’s something about the way it has been done in the past that isn’t satisfactory.
Is it too optimistic to hope that the ultimate impact of all of these books, together, will be a new awareness within the science world of just how important it is to actively and strategically communicate about research, rather than merely publishing it and hoping the message gets out somehow?