PA – Covering Complex Science, by Joe Palca (NPR)

2

November 22, 2013 by Dr. G

Last night, I attended the Ullyot Public Affairs Lecture at the Chemical Heritage Foundation.  I’ve known about the CHF and its museum in downtown Philadelphia, but I hadn’t yet toured the exhibits, much less attended any of their seminars.  My husband (who happens to be a chemist) shared with me an announcement about this lecture, as he thought I would be interested in the topic – and he was correct!  He knew I had attended two ScienceOnline conferences earlier this year, and the title was a perfect fit for my interests – “Covering Complex Science, or How I Explained a Frank Kasper Sigma Phase in Sphere-Forming Block Copolymer Melts to a Radio Audience.”  The talk was given by Joe Palca, science correspondent for NPR.

Dr. Palca was a very entertaining speaker and made several relevant points about science communication that I had heard at previous meetings this year.  But he also introduced some new ideas and viewpoints I had not thought of before.  Here are my main takeaways:

(1) Silly introductions get people on board for the story.  Dr. Palca used a silly introduction with his PowerPoint slides, making a point that starting with something lighthearted and in common language (not scientific jargon), people will keep on listening and not change the radio channel.

(2) We should have stories focus on the people (scientists/researchers) and the process of science.  Dr. Palca challenged us with a big question – how much do reporters, or anyone for that matter, have to explain to someone in order for them to “get it”?  He believes that someone has to really work for about 20 years in order to understand the science of a discovery, so how much is someone going to learn, retain, and be able to explain to others with one audio story or one lecture?  This is one reason he has started Joe’s Big Idea, a project by NPR “that examines where big ideas come from and how something goes from an idea to a discovery.”  I love this idea of exploring how scientists get to an answer – for a general audience, especially a younger audience, I think this would be very effective in getting people interested, listening, and talking about science.

(3) A non-jargon paragraph at the beginning of a journal article will increase readership, even among scientists.  Dr. Palca posed a question to the audience – how many of us read all of the articles in each issue of the journal Science?  I didn’t see anyone raise their hands.  Then he asked how many of us read the articles that are the most relevant to our discipline (such as the chemistry articles, physics articles, etc.).  Many people raised their hands.  Dr. Palca suggested an idea that seems so simple to implement – have the first paragraph of every journal article be written in non-jargon, to do a service to fellow scientists in other disciplines, to start making science and science knowledge more interdisciplinary.  I think all journals could benefit by implementing this idea!

This seminar reminded me of the podcasting workshop at ScienceOnline Oceans I attended, where I struggled to create a 60-second podcast without using any jargon from one of my own papers.  I know of colleagues that have students take journal articles and have them write up a non-jargon version of the work, which encourages students to first try to understand the science before communicating the science with a non-technical vocabulary.  I’m sensing a common theme across my conferences and seminars….

Everything Dr. Palca communicated this evening made sense and made me wonder… why aren’t we doing more non-jargon communication already?  What role and responsibility do faculty and scientists have to communicate their work to a general audience, yet balance our role and responsibility to publish in discipline-specific peer-reviewed journals?  And the question I will still try to answer… what can we do better in the classroom to have students understand the process of science, what scientists do, but also balance that with teaching science?  I wonder what students think about all of this.

 

 

2 thoughts on “PA – Covering Complex Science, by Joe Palca (NPR)

  1. Joe Palca says:

    Glad you liked the talk

    Like

  2. […] Climate and ScienceOnline Oceans conferences this year, and even attended a talk given by Joe Palca from NPR.  From those events, in addition to the AGU sessions focused on science communication, I […]

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Categories

Follow me on Instagram

Excited for today’s awards ceremony of the @PSUBrandywine Un-Canny Competition! So thankful for the hard-working student volunteers & generous donors that made this possible. The real winners are the @visitmediapa Media Food Bank, who will receive 1,240 food items. #psubwuncanny #fightinghunger #foodsecurity #sustainabledevelopmentgoals #SDG2
Today is public viewing day of our campus Un-Canny Competition structures, and the opening of the online voting for the People’s Choice Award! All structures & student posters can be viewed online at https://tinyurl.com/uncannyview One structure is Prosperity Park, demonstrating how individuals of different backgrounds can unite to accomplish remarkable things for mankind and the environment (created by the Sustainovation Club and Multicultural Student Club). #SDG1 #SDG10 #SDG11 #SDG14 #SDG15 The Women in Engineering Team created Let Them BEE to call attention to our pollinators. #SDG2 #SDG12 #SDG13 #SDG15 The R2LN engineering students created Spills That Kill to address the issue of environmental degradation - specifically, the impacts of oil spills on aquatic life and the ocean environment. #SDG14 The Civic and Community Club tells us that Education is the Key to Sustainability with a staircase of books that leads up to the golden key. #SDG4 The MARCOMM Club brought us MARCOMM CITY, with green businesses, green roofs, public recreation areas, etc. #SDG11 The sophomore engineering team built a Castle On The Hill to reflect how difficult it can be for societies to access clean water #SDG6 Our final structure is from the Accounting Club with Money On My Mind, calling attention to #SDG8 for sustainable economic growth and and a healthy workforce These 1,200+ food items will be donated to Media Food Bank after the competition to help with local food insecurity. But first, you can help us select The People’s Choice Award! Vote for your favorite structure (until 5PM Monday!) tinyurl.com/uncannyview #psubwuncanny @psubrandywine #sustainabledevelopment #fightinghunger #sustainabledevelopmentgoals #SDGs
Today was “build day” of our first-ever campus Un-Canny Competition! Seven student teams created sustainability-themed structures out of boxes/bottles/jars of food (no cans!) to raise awareness of local hunger. All food will be donated to Media Food Bank. Why no cans allowed? Our local food bank notified us that they already get so many cans of food, what they really need are the other items to round out their distribution - ketchup, mustard, salad dressing, cereal, coffee, tea... items typically not donated. #psubwuncanny #mediafoodbank #fighthunger #sustainabledevelopmentgoals #sdg2zerohunger @psubrandywine
I’m excited about teaching a course in Fall 2019 for the first time at @psubrandywine. If you are a student that is not a STEM major but looking for a general education GN course that is current and relevant, check out EARTH 103 - Earth in the Future: Predicting Climate Change and it’s Impacts Over the Next Century! #coursetrailer #videotrailer #psubrandywine #stemcourse #climateliteracy
I’m coming for you #AAASmtg Flash Talk area... giving my first-ever @aaasorg meeting presentation today! #whatfacultydo #whatscientistsdo
%d bloggers like this: