In this episode, Gary and Nathan delve more deeply into scientific communication by exploring the role of scientific journalism and engagement of the general public in current scientific issues. Their guest is Paige Brown, an established science blogger (From The Lab Bench blog at SciLogs.com) with scientific training and a doctoral student in mass communications at Louisiana State University.
They devote the first part of the show to explaining how the work of science communicators like Paige relates to issues raised in the three prior episodes. In particular, the most relevant claim from episode 1 is that there is almost never a one-to-one correspondence between needs outside the academic community and disciplines inside the academy. The implication of this claim is that science translation and impact requires knowledge aggregation and sometimes requires individual scientists to journey across disciplinary boundaries.
The most relevant issue from episode 2 is the balancing act between internal validity (experimental control and precision) and external validity (relevance to people who aren’t scientists). Dr. Fred Diedrich, the guest in that episode, explained his two-pronged approach to this dilemma in applied science (federally-funded R&D). First, he brings scientists together with consumers of scientific research who often are not scientists themselves, essentially as co-investigators, in mutually relevant environments. Secondly, he strategically takes the long view by acquiring converging evidence across multiple investigations of different kinds.
Episode 3 began aggregating issues across prior episodes by discussing the critical importance of community in the conduct and quality of science. The essential activity of the community in science is communication and peer review that unfolds within a context of long-term relationships among scientific colleagues. The communication is, of necessity, a two-way interaction in that listening is as important as telling for any investigator who seeks advancement of knowledge and impact on a broader body of work. Listening and telling also is an important requirement of the peers with whom investigators have reciprocal influence.
In the current episode, we explore the implication that an additional channel of scientific communication may be required for science translation and collaboration between scientists and non-scientists. In this respect, Paige shares her experience, lessons learned, and emerging trends in journalism, blogging and science. The third-party reporting or intermediation represented by Paige’s work enables collaboration in which scientists can be influenced by their lay audience as much such audiences can be influenced by scientists. The audience is not a passive recipient of the message, and the intermediary is not a passive channel for the message. They are participants in the development of new knowledge and its use and, as such, they should have inescapable accountability for such influence. Paige discusses the relevant issues in emerging forms of “participatory journalism” within and beyond science.
Key Terms and Concepts
- knowledge aggregation
- scientists together with consumers
- converging evidence
- listening is as important as telling
- participants in the development of new knowledge