Science Outreach Guide for scientists
This is an era of unprecedented scientific progress. The growing impact of technology has brought science ever more into our daily lives. Therefore, without a general awareness of science in the public domain there will be lack of a broad appreciation of scientific progress in the community.
There are many good reasons for scientists to participate in science communication:
- It exposes his/her work to the specific community, increases awareness of science and scientific work. It spreads awareness about a specific project, mission or instrument.
- It highlights a specific result and the work of a group.
- It brings individual efforts to the general people. In science people only remember the person who convinces the world about a research, and not the person to whom the idea occurs first.
- It acknowledges the funding agency and helps to secure funding for future projects.
- Finally it benefits the scientific community as a whole. The interfield knowledge transfer in the present day science, is abysmally poor. Science outreach can accelerate the interfield knowledge transfer.
MachInterviews and Articles
MachInterview and articles help you in science communication and to inform the world about your scientific advances. It helps communicate important information to funding agencies, decision-makers, other mediators, scientists and to the public, which can not be done through journal papers.
How to write a better interview or article
Any research work takes a huge effort. Therefore it's important to highlight the individual or the group effort in public. Different research papers may be interesting to the specific science community. However, it may not be interesting to general people if it's written in the same way. Any research paper, be it theoretical, or based on some observational data, is suitable for MachInterview. However, it's important to focus on some specific points while writing the interview or an article. For writing a good interview please focus on the following points:
Human interest: For instance “Astronomer discovers new galaxies”. For scientific papers you may be interested in focusing on exact size, distance, constituents etc. However, discussing all these things in a general interview may not be a good idea. General people may not appreciate all the numerical values. Instead if you say that it's twice the size of the milky way, that will be much more exciting to the non-scientific community even to the scientific community outside your research field.
Conflicts or profound consequences: Suppose your result settles a controversial debate or a much-debated topic that contains intrigues. The community of your research field may be aware of the debate, however, the people outside your research community will not be aware of the debate. Therefore, it's important to provide necessary background. Same thing is true if your result has some profound consequences. The consequences of your results may not be very obvious to the people outside your research interest.
Mystery: A mysterious phenomenon, quirky details, an unexpected result or a chance discovery are extremely interesting. However, when writing about those results it's important to provide necessary background. Discovery of a millisecond pulsar may be interesting to pulser researchers, but may not catch the attention of the general public unless necessary background is presented.
Aesthetics: For example you get an exceptionally beautiful image from some science experiment. It's important to bring it to general people. Everyone is interested in pictures or videos with aesthetic beauty.
A sexy topic: Some topics almost always capture the attention of the public (despite not necessarily being great science) and therefore have a fast track to the headlines. Some examples from astronomy are: Solar System topics, space weather, black holes, extrasolar planets, extraterrestrial life, the future of the Earth and Sun and human spaceflight. In biology, Genetic engineering, Cloning etc.
Works on theory: Theoretical sciences are always fascinating to people. Therefore, if you can properly present it, this can make a realy hot topic. Suppose your work is extremely theoretical in nature, such as if you are working in string theory or quantum mechanics. While writing an interview, it's important to focus on the field as a hole. Explain to people what is the importance of your research in the field instead of focusing on a particular equation that you have solved.
Add visual support
It is true that all good science communication is based on good science, but without good visuals the chances of selling the products vanish. Images, illustrations and visual design are key factors in successful science communication. It may be a scientific presentation in a conference or a journal paper. The visual element is extremely important. When coming to a science outreach project the visual element becomes exceptionally important. The effort needed here can hardly be overemphasised. Images have always been an integral part of science. Therefore, any science promotion in MachPrinciple must be supported by attractive visual elements.