postdocs -- ask your mentor

C. Boake cboake at
Wed Aug 20 09:20:33 EST 1997

In article <33F5F2CD.201DD9B7 at>, Bart Janssen
<bjanssen at> wrote:


> But what has been ignored, is that the general public has almost no
> perception of just how valuable scientific research is in their daily
> lives.  To be honest I don't think TV is a particularly good medium for
> disseminating that awareness.  I think the very best way of
> desseminating the idea that science is good, is word of mouth.  The
> problem with that is that very few scientists take the time to explain
> their work and more importantly the value of their work to lay people
> (including their own parents!!!).  I've seen many people say they are
> tired of their family saying "when are they going to get a real job",
> but have they really explained their work and it's potential value.
> My own tactic is to talk to every taxi driver I can :).  But also I
> never let anyone anywhere get away with a misapprehension about
> science.  I don't know whether it makes a damn bit of difference.  But I
> do know that without support/pressure from the public then politicians
> will never change funding levels.
> whoops too long again
> cheers
> Bart

I think that public outreach is crucial, even to maintain the number of
active scientists that we have now.  It is only when the public see a need
that sufficient pressure gets placed on legislators to allocate funds.  I
also know that it can be incredibly tough to follow-through on outreach
activities.  If we all could give dynamic public presentations about the
value of our research, and serve as experts on public boards and councils,
we might make a difference.  But that kind of work is demanding and not
necessarily suited to the temperaments of all of us.  Yet I think that we
could do better at outreach than we are at the moment.  But how?  Maybe
get that ad agency who does the "milk mustaches" to run a campaign
promoting science?  It is relatively easy to promote biomedical science,
but research that is a few steps removed from immediate human problems can
be tough to explain.

What forms of outreach have worked for members of this group?  Do you have
arguments, demonstrations, or other effective ways of communicating about
your work with nonscientists?


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