About the science bubble and why we should make it burst!On August 23, 2017 by neurotravels
I got inspired. Inspired to do more work in science communication and, as a long-term mission, to work towards closing the gap between science and public. When I work as a scientist, I seem to be part of a separated “science-world”. It feels like being in an isolated bubble that is disconnected from the “real-world” outside academia. There is not enough, or better, not the right form of communication evading from this science bubble. It feels like from the inside, we can see what is happening in the “real-world”, but vice versa the public cannot get many real “sneak peaks” from what’s happening in our world. Our bubble is made of a not very transparent material, like a chewing gum bubble. It’s not easy to see through. This is a problem that should be addressed and, I am sure, accounts for a lot of mistrust that we are getting from the public and that leads to problems that slow down investments in innovation and progress.
How does the science- world look like?
What are we actually doing in this bubble world? What are the skills we have? How does a scientist’s typical everyday-work look like (if there even is one)? What problems do we have to deal with? And… are we the stereotypical freaky nerds writing formulas on glass???
Does anyone of you really know? I bet, not many of my closest friends, who work outside academia, are aware of what my everyday looks like or what the main skills are every scientist develops in his or her career; even if they know me: a scientist. How are we perceived? How do YOU see us? The bubble world is seen so differently from the outside than how I see it from the inside. So why is that? And why would it be very, very important to change this imbalance?
Scientists and their public image
A new, cool project, that I support with my heart, investigates how scientists are perceived and how we could improve our public image by using Instagram. One reason for the kick-off of this experiment was a study showing that the U.S. population sees scientists as competent, but not very warm. Outch! Importantly, if you see someone as warm, that indicates, that you are more likely to also trust this someone. I think, that it is a fantastic idea to do this experiment and it absolutely supports my theory, that there is this “gap” between scientists and the public. And I think that this gap widened so much due to
(I) on one hand, lacking communication coming from the science bubble and
(II) on the other hand, the increase of information spreading through the internet and social media – and this information mostly being taken out of context or being simply wrong. The translation of what we scientists would say and what is ending up as a header in the media are just two completely different statements, in very many cases.
So, for me it is totally understandable if this perception of scientists is not a very positive one. All that you might see and hear outside the bubble is how many $$ are flowing into scientist’s direction, and what you get out of it is just wrong news and information, making promises that no one can keep and always let you down in the end #notcool. This might be a bit intensified. But it is clear, that skepticism is flowing into the science bubble’s direction, instead of being used to handle what we are bombarded with in the media and distinguish between good, reliable sources and very bad sources.
Bursting the bubble!
I am confident that we are very well able to change something about these problems! We are already on the way, as science communication increases enormously these days #awesooome. Let’s use social media for our better. I want to address my ideas in future posts and share with you how the science world works and how you can use scientists’ skills in your everyday life to get less vulnerable for wrongly stated science news. Let’s decrease or even close the science <-> public gap and build a relationship that is more about trust than skepticism. Scientists, let’s share some useful insights into our science bubble, or even better – let’s make it burst! #FeelingLikeaRevolutionist 😉
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And – about the “writing formulas on glass” – thing: like Mark Zuckerberg nicely mentioned in his awesome speech at Harvard University (worth checking out!): that’s not a thing, no-one does that! 😉