Popular(izing) Science (was RE: SOC/BIO/POL: International Forum on Globalization conference)

From: Josh Martin (martin.907@osu.edu)
Date: Wed Feb 07 2001 - 20:35:47 MST

It has been written (by Greg Burch) :
> >...a Carl Sagan seems to come along all
> > too rarely.

To which Barbara Lamar responded:

> OTOH, long as you're still alive, it's never too late to start learning
> communications skills.
> > The simple facts are that the kinds of people who are drawn into
> > scientific
> > and technical fields tend to be TERRIBLE communicators in the way
> > needed to
> > have an impact on the culture at large.
> I wonder why this is. Wish we could talk about this on the list and figure
> it out. It hasn't always been so.
> > Even getting the people who could afford to fund the grooming of good
> > spokespeople to recognize the need seems to be an uphill task.
> This is something the people on this list could begin to remedy
> immediately.
> Beginning with each person funding their own grooming (funding in terms of
> time as well as money).
> Barbara

I have been thinking about this ever since I decided that a neuroscientist's
life is the life for me (hi-diddly-dee). Though making a contribution to
the knowledge base (a ground-breaking theory or two would be nice, as well)
is very important to me, I also feel a great responsibility to further
science through communicating about it. If it wasn't for Damasio, Dennet,
Pinker, Hofstadter, Davis, Gazzaniga, et al, as well as some excellent
professors here in the neuroscience department at OSU, I would still
probably be a disillusioned pre-med wannabe. I very much want to be a
popularizer, to attract fresh blood to the science, as well as to inform
John Q. Public about the wonders of science, and what it can do (and has
done) for his life.

That said:
How can I get there from here? (ATTN: Mr. Broderick and other
writers/communicators on this list)

So far, I have been voraciously reading whatever I can get my hands on in
the area of popular science (my reading back-log is horrendous). I do this
not only for knowledge about the specific science, but with an ear to how
they communicate. I have found Steven Pinker to be excellent in this arena
(his was the only non-fiction book I have ever read cover-to-cover in one
week, I usually jump around book to book). At his advice, I'm looking into
Joseph Williams _Style: Toward Clarity and Grace_, which Pinker says is "a
scientific style manual," in that it is informed by discoveries in
Linguistics in its attempt to create understandable and expressive prose.
If anyone knows how else I can improve my writing skills, I would very much
like your advice.

I have also been reading fiction, both classics and modern, to discover how
they express themselves. I consider the purpose of art to be expression,
and I would like to use what I can learn about expression from art to
enhance my expression in science.

Verbal communication, in speech and debate, is one area I cannot seem to
find good information about. I took a debate class, but it was less than
useless. I would like to hone my speaking skills, and to that end I have
been making presentations for the Mars Society. My major failing thus far
is that I have a low, soft, somewhat soothing voice, and it tends to put
people to sleep. I do, however, consider myself to be a good communicator,
and I often can understand where the person I'm talking to doesn't
understand, and smooth out conflicts.

I know that there are people on this list who are good writers and
communicators. For me, and those like me, please share your thoughts and
resources on how we can better communicate our visions.

Josh Martin

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