The need for science communication
Science communication broadly includes all aspects of communication related to scientific work, results, teaching and future tasks within and between individual science disciplines. The main actors in science communication are scientists, the scientific institutions which they work for and with, and science journalists. Science communication not only serves the internal exchange of science, but also creates the opportunity to make scientific results understandable and available for everyone. One of the greatest challenges for people doing science communication is to choose a target-group-specific approach.
When writing our theses, we are preached that we must be able to explain our methods and results, and therefore the meaning of them, briefly and concisely. The sentence "Imagine you should explain what you are doing to your grandma." should be well known to all Bachelor, Master, and PhD students. Assuming the likelihood that the average grandmother wrote her thesis in the same research field as you did is rather low, you learn to break down your work into a few, rather striking sentences. This is the key for making our results and thus, science understandable for everyone and to get attention of our audience.
Over time, you will develop target-group-specific standard short explanations for your work. In my repertoire, there are mainly three of these explanations, which I like to say again and again like a child reading his eagerly studied poem under the Christmas tree. Depending on the form of the day, personal mood and my personal need for communication, my scientific poem ranges from: “I work with frogs” (this explanation, by the way, can lead to strange jokes among particularly humorous contemporaries), about “I investigate the effects of climate change and pollution on frogs.”, about “I am investigating the effects of environmental stress such as climate change and pollution on tadpoles during the metamorphosis and see whether frogs will later suffer long-term consequences from this stress ”. Probably my boyfriend and my closest friends and colleagues can now summarize my work as well as I can by parroting my standard explanations.
The importance of science communication for everyone has been evident since the beginning of the Corona crisis: Relevant science podcasts, scientists as talk show guests, infographics and AMA (ask me anything) live videos on social media have given almost every non-virologist an understanding of the Corona virus including all its facets to some extent. This special situation demonstrates the general need for science communication and that science communication must be promoted in order to prevent the emergence and distribution of so-called fake news and conspiracy theories.
Science communication is equally important for nature conservation. We all know the big googly eyes of lonely panda bears, the sad faces of endangered orangutans and the emaciated polar bears on lonely melting ice floes. All of these images are science communication: They want to and should tell us “These species are threatened; do something about it! Care about it!" Without these images, far fewer people would understand the real extent of the current biodiversity crisis due to global change.
Therefore, I’d like to start this new blog with the following words: "I work with frogs. I am studying the effects of climate change and pollution. I would like to contribute to the protection of species with my work and help stressed amphibians. I will keep on talking about my work on this mission. Enjoy being part of it!".