What do you think about the picture above? Is this answer correct or not? This was a question in a mathematics exam, but you cannot say this answer is totally wrong. I thought this was good example to explain how the general public and scientists do not always understanding each other. The student’s answer was different from what teacher expected. If it is this hard for a teacher to explain what he or she means in an exam, then it should be even
harder for scientists to explain what they mean when they talk to the general public through science journals such as Science, Nature or Genetics.
Dorthy Naking (1994) says that it is important for scientists to describe their research in understandable way to the public audiences. She described the language geneticists can use to effectively explain their research to a public audience. She mentioned that she asks three questions to researchers when she describe their research to the public.
- What can we learn from the efforts of geneticists to shape the public image of the human genome project?
- Do the images promulgated by geneticists inform the public accurately and fairly about this complex field?
- How are these images received?
I think these questions help public audiences get the idea about what it is that genomic researchers are doing. It is hard even for me to understand what the scientists are describing when they use scientific jargons, and I have a background in genetics. “Genomes” is a popular topic these days based on the fact that I can see many articles about genomes in Science, and Nature journals even thought these journals are not just for audiences who are keen on genomes. Genomic researchers are especially worried about their public image. Public image is based on the media and researchers need to use the media to spread their research. Unfortunately, what the media is attracted to is sometimes not same as the message that researchers wanted them to spread. Furthermore, what public audiences learn from media is sometimes not same as the message the media is trying to spread. This means that, what the public learns about science is often very far from the original message that the researchers were trying to say. I think this is a common problem all over the world.
So, here are the questions.
How can we remind scientist that they are using unintelligible words that the public doesn’t understand? What aspects can help make public understand science? From these aspects, how can science communicators approach both scientists and the public?
I would like to hear your ideas!
Picutre: Funny exams http://funnyexam.com/
Super thanks to Jean!!