What I love about science communicationI went to the number one high school in Georgia, which isn’t saying so much, since Georgia at the time was ranked pretty close to last in education based on test scores. However, more importantly, my high school was a Grammy Gold Signature School, a National Magnet School of Excellence, and had a plethora of awards marking it as a school for success. I am very proud of this, and I loved my high school while I was there. Looking back, I still marvel at the encouragement and artistic immersion.
Beyond science writingI learn much better when I am engaged. I’ve always loved comics, movies, and games. Even though I enjoy reading, I always wished I could see in real life the visual elements I imagined from the books. To this day, I still love picture books for this reason (they are also rather relaxing to read, to be honest). This is why scientists love models.It takes all that data and condenses it down into a (hopefully) easy to understand model. But how can we move this into a more visual and interactive environment?
Frontiers of science communication
1. VideoVideo is not new. Mr. Wizard, Carl Sagan, David Attenborough, Bill Nye…most of us are familiar with these names and the impact they had on the generations they are associated with. Public broadcasting and science programming on cable TV have provided us with some amazing video content, sometimes with real scientists and other times with some amazingly charismatic people teaching us cool stuff about our world.Now, YouTube is another great place to find content. Check out these:
- It’s Okay to Be Smart – https://www.youtube.com/itsokaytobesmart
- Animate Your Science – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2cW9LJarhXHr7bvE6HQx2Q
- Simple Biologist – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNfAxyi_7bxdhdfwqffVzWQ
- The Science Asylum – https://www.youtube.com/user/TheScienceAsylum
3. Science artArt is a natural extension of science writing. Scientists already create art when they create models or figures. However, I would argue that more scientists should find trained artists to help them communicate their science. As a scientist who was also trained as a fine artist, I find that science is ignoring a major collaborator. Yet many scientists enjoy pursuing creative endeavors.You like science. You like art. Now it’s time to support artists (they need money to eat, too) to help you communicate your science better.Check out these profiles on Twitter: The Vexed Muddler, IAmSciArt, and many more if you just search #sciart.How can you use that art? Great question. Read on for more ideas.
3. AnimationA logical flow from art, yeah?Much of what we study as scientists is not so clear to see. I study genomics, and it isn’t always something I can just show someone. Animation can help. It can take abstract concepts and transform them into nuggets of information that are more easily digestible. Several of the video pages I shared above employ simple animations that really elevate their messages.I’ve been creating animations for years, from frame-by-frame drawings (traditional 2-D animation) to very simple 3D renderings. I recently created my first digital animation as a supplement to a press release I wrote. I learned a lot and am hoping to finish another soon.
4. GamesMaybe I’m crazy, but I’ve learned a lot from playing games. Ever since I played “Mario Teaches Typing” as a kid, I’ve loved playing educational games. And I’m lucky to have a talented friend who has inspired me to think about gaming in science. There are plenty of games for kids to learn science, but why stop there?Free platforms like Unity provide access to game making that we can all get involved with. And, again, hiring someone to work with you to create a simple game illustrating the scientific problem you’re working with could be very powerful.Here’s one game that recently caught my eye because it has an interesting story, but attempts to integrate concepts of organic chemistry as part of the game.
5. Interactive WebsitesWe’ve all been to a website that “WOW”ed us. A good website can help you (1) recruit graduate students and post-docs, (2) connect with potential donors, and (3) have a hub to send those interested in your research. An INTERACTIVE website can help you tell a story about your science. You can use art, animation, games, and video to enhance your site and make it a destination for your field to communicate science to the world.There are some great long-form journalism pieces that I love to use as examples: Tomato Can Blues & Snow Fall
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