👍 Scientists, Stop Thinking Explaining Science Will Fix Things. It Won’t.

Liked Scientists, Stop Thinking Explaining Science Will Fix Things. It Won’t. (Slate Magazine)

In my own workshops, I’ve certainly been guilty of focusing on communication skills at the expense of strategy and not fully addressing the flawed deficit model. But I’m learning to better challenge scientists’ assumptions about how communication works. The deficit model, I’ve found, is difficult to unlearn. It’s very logical, and my hunch is that it comes naturally to scientists because most have largely spent their lives in school—whether as students, professors, or mentors—and the deficit model perfectly explains how a scientist learns science. But the obstacles faced by science communicators are not epistemological but cultural. The skills required are not those of a university lecturer but a rhetorician.

4 responses on “👍 Scientists, Stop Thinking Explaining Science Will Fix Things. It Won’t.”

  1. Aaron Davis comments, “I’m learning to better challenge scientists’ assumptions about how communication works. The deficit model, I’ve found, is difficult to unlearn. It’s very logical, and my hunch is that it comes naturally to scientists … But the obstacles faced by science communicators are not epistemological but cultural. The skills required are not those of a university lecturer but a rhetorician.” Indeed, as this article notes, “The takeaway is clear: Increasing science literacy alone won’t change minds. In fact, well-meaning attempts by scientists to inform the public might even backfire.” The key here is that this is true not only for scientific communication, but learning generally.

  2. Estoy completamente de acuerdo Aaron Davis, los científicos del siglo XXI no es que no puedan es que no quieren cambiar y ello perjudica a lo que se conoce por aprendizaje en general, pero poco a poco va perdiendo trascendencia en el aprendizaje real, es decir, el aprendizaje personalizado y socializador de los ciudadanos, en su aprendizaje permanente y continuado (life long learning).

    No queda otra, a los cientificos, también, que entrar en lo que conocemos como transformación de la cultura y sus valores y será a través de ello donde la sociedad, no la academia. dirá como quiere educarse, formarse, investigar y desarrollarse.

    (Google Translate: I completely agree Aaron Davis, the scientists of the 21st century are not that they can not is that they do not want to change and this harms what is known by learning in general, but little by little it is losing importance in real learning, that is, personalized and socializing learning of citizens, in their permanent and continuous learning (life long learning).

    There is no other, the scientists, too, to enter into what we know as a transformation of culture and its values ​​and it will be through it where society, not academia. He will say how he wants to educate, train, research and develop)

  3. Aaron Davis linked to an important article from 2017 by Tim Requarth of Slate Magazine about “closing the ‘information gap’” (via OLDaily).

    “lectures from scientists built on the premise that they simply know more (even if it’s true) fail to convince this audience”

    The article resonated with me in several respects:
    First:

    “They may have more luck communicating if […] spending time on why it matters to the author”

    This reminded me of the problems that many have with learning the style of scientific papers. Everybody agrees that such papers have to be emotionless and sober, and everybody complains that they are boring and tiring. Of course, the author must not employ emotional rhetoric to try and sway the reader into believing an unsupported claim and compensate for its weak evidence. But reading would be much easier if the author emphasized why some aspects are more important to them, and why they are passionate to find a convincing solution.
    But — as if they were not able to distinguish these two kinds of emotions — most authors cultivate a special style that not only sounds maximally unbiased, impartial and emotionless, but also escapes into weird, rare and distanced words, and eventually conveys the impression of disinterest and disrespect and even arrogance towards the reader. I acknowledge that developing such a habit is not easy, and once acquired, this style becomes the hallmark of scholarly ‘speak’ that shines through in each and every public utterance. Certainly, some scientists may be so frustrated about the academic atmosphere of envy and elbow rule that they have indeed become blunted and emotionless, doing without passion whatever the funding agencies currently want to hear.
    Second:

    “communicators can be more effective after they’ve gained the audience’s trust. “

    This is the most important, and seems obvious to me: trust has been lost, and the gap has become too wide.
    Third:

    “it may be more worthwhile to figure out how to talk about science with people they already know, through, say, local and community interactions, than it is to try to publish explainers on national news sites”

    This reminds me of Downes’s successful networks, which are not centralized hub and spoke networks, but those that work through a ripple effect and propagate the messages on trusted shorter pathways.
    In a polarized environment, we cannot expect that someone abruptly changes their mind against all of the closest acquaintances, without gradually seeing their neighborhood rethink, too.

    <em>Related</em>

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