Communication between scientists and the public- clear as mud
Did you understand the last scientific article that you read the first time you looked at it- most likely the response would be no, because “I’m not a scientist:”- this is the first pitfall in the effective communication of scientific literature.
I’m sure you all have been in a situation where you have picked up a scientific article and read it through only to realize that you actually do not understand a word that has been said? All the scientific jargon being used to confuse you in the hope that you will read it once believe what the researcher says and then move – we all have but the difference with us university students is that we will read it thoroughly many times if need be until we have absorbed it and fully understood it. Unfortunately for many people this is not the case. From reading articles many people lose trust in the researchers and do not believe what is being said amongst all the scientific language being used.
This mistrust has lead to numerous studies being undertaken to look into the effective manner in which scientific literature can be communicated efficiently and effectively to the every day folk. If the scientific papers written cannot be communicated properly to society, not only is it mostly a waste of time writing them however majority of society tend to lose trust in scientists as they believe that they are being deceived.
In the UK a study has been conducted and it was noted that over two thirds of the participants were definitely interested and of these, over three quarters declared that they were ‘fascinated’ by scientific findings. However this same survey also found that people are unsure as to who to trust and who not to trust when it comes to scientific findings. It was noted that out of all the groups’ university scientists were the most trusted however government scientists were the least trusted.
In order to build up this trust to effectively and efficiently communicate scientific knowledge, the knowledge of both parties has to be respected and responded to because scientists and the general public have very different views. Since most people gain their scientific knowledge from the Internet and television it is vital that communication is effective and efficient so as that the risk of miscommunication is reduced as much as possible.
There are many initiatives that are being put into place to increase the scientific knowledge of the general public. These include community events and national events that bring together scientists and the general public.
However I believe that much more time is needed before the degree of trust is increased between the public and scientists. As with anything as time goes on this information will continue to be communicated efficiently and effectively more and more and only time will tell how this will continue to evolve in the future.
Reference: Clarke, B. 2001. Strategies for improving communication between scientists and the public. Journal of Commercial Biotechnology 8(1): 51- 59.