Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Introducing a blog

I do science, so that's what this blog is about. More specifically, it's about the way science is written about and reported on the internet (or traditional media, if I ever wind up trapped in a house in the middle of nowhere with no internet but a TV and plenty of newspapers, aka my parents' place). You see, like many people who do science, I often get frustrated with the way it is reported. Not because it's been simplified; there's no way research that took a team of scientists years to do can be put into a 500 word report without being simplified. But because so often the way in which the science is simplified distorts or destroys the main point of the science being communicated. And this is unacceptable.

There are a lot of reasons to communicate science--satisfying curiosity, looking smart at parties, the sheer pleasure of learning about something so mind-blowingly cool that you tell people about it even when it makes you look terribly nerdy at parties. But to me, the overarching goal, the one that makes science communication more than just entertainment and elevates it to public service, is that in communicating science we make the public better able to make decisions about the issues that face our cities and our country and our world. This is the main point of communicating science. So this is the standard I see for science communication: does it make the readers/viewers/listeners better able to make decisions in that area? Sadly, a lot of what I see out there fails that test.

That, then, is what I will be writing about in this blog. Science that I see reported well. Science that I see reported poorly. Occasionally, just science that was so cool I couldn't not write about it. For the most part, my sources will be blogs and websites, while taking advantage of my university's subscription services to look up original research articles and figure out what they actually said.

There is something a little narcissistic about writing a blog. I sit down and write and assume that there are people out there who want to read what I have to say, which has made me a little uncomfortable in my past blogging efforts. So this time I'm motivating myself slightly differently. This blog is entirely self-serving. I want to make a career in science communication, and to that end I'm practising writing about science. The fact that I'm doing this in blog format, so that people can read it if they want to, is secondary. To that end I'm going to (try to) be disciplined about this. To start I'm going to post once a week, every Tuesday. No more, no less. If that works out I might think about increasing that to two posts a week in the future. But I'm getting ahead of myself. For now, I've said what I wanted to say by way of introduction, and so I will be back next Tuesday with something new to say about science communication. Ciao!

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