Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Mini review. A Scientist's Guide to Talking with the Media

Science is a dialogue, and blogging is a newer dialogue technology fostering discussion in a open social network. For us scientists, blogs offer the opportunity to include the lay world in our discussions and consequently to improve society at large. This recent book published by Rutgers University Press can help you overcome any writer's blocks you may have.

I admit I am not a great communicator myself, and I have even been given the characterisation of being charismatically challenged. However, I make an effort to share my knowledge, because this sharing costs very little but has a big impact. As the Romans used to say about sharing knowledge, when a wayfarer lights the torch of a fellow wayfarer, the latter's torch shines without reducing the brilliance of the former's torch.

This is why I try to spark a dialogue in my blog posts. To overcome my shortcomings as a communicator, I try to stimulate you my reader and fellow wayfarer with controversial tiles like "Sex and Evolution" or "The End of JPEG." I also try to put something extra in the post, something that is surprising, catchy, humorous, or sobering.

Sometimes this works, and the post on "Non-Local Realism" sparked a serious discussion with 13 comments. However, most of the time it does not work, like in my last post on "Childhood Origins of Adult Resistance to Science." I was hoping that at least my fellow American scientists reading this blog would react to being kicked in their shins, alas the patient remained catatonic. No wonder, American's views of global warming equal those in underdeveloped countries. Do you remember how in the Sixties we were stimulated to outbrain the Commies? We did not, the cold war was won by outspending them in the arms race; therefore, our task is not finished.

Maybe a reason for this silence lies in the educational system, where we learn to write erudite papers for our fellow scientists, but not to communicate with humans at large. If this is the case for you, then I have some good medicine, a little book from Rutgers University Press called A Scientist's Guide to Talking with the Media.

This book was not written by scientists, but by Richard Hayes, a media and public relations specialist, and Daniel Grossman, a science journalist. They teach you, my reader, how the world functions on the other side of this screen and help you have more impact on society at large. And in the process I hope to get more comments from you to my posts.