One of the reasons I write a blog is to communicate the science I do, and to share what other people are doing. Following open science principles is the first step in opening up science. We need to remember to get the word out about what we do!
When scientists communicate their science, or science done by their colleagues or peers, they accomplish (at least) four important things:
- They explain why their work is interesting and worth doing to the public (who have probably funded at least part of it).
- They share their passions, inspire a greater interest in the world around us, and remind people just how magical reality can be.
- They provide context to public debates involving controversial issues, and help to debunk harmful pseudoscience.
- They show that science is relevant, fun, fascinating, and worth investing in.
I believe scientists have a responsibility to communicate their science to the public if they have made use of any public funds. But more than that, I believe scientists can make a real difference when they share their passions (and improve their own work in the process). We can communicate science by giving talks to community groups or schools, writing blog posts about what we are doing or what others are doing, contribute op-eds or letters to the editor of popular media, or even just use social media to talk about cool science.
Who knows how far your tweets will travel! Like that time Jason Isaacs responded to the species I described and named after his character in the Harry Potter films:
He’d be better as a variety of Enterobius Vermicularis, but I suppose a pathetically stingless wannabe-Bee fits too. https://t.co/2yo0eJJPyP
— Jason Isaacs (@jasonsfolly) October 11, 2017
Pitching to media, adapting our message to different audiences, and experimenting with other writing styles is going to help with writing grants, presenting at conferences, and producing scientific papers that are a pleasure to read. Its a win-win! In New Zealand we have many organisations and individuals working to promote science in the news: Science Media Centre, Aotearoa Science Agency, RNZ Science, and the Science Communicators Association of NZ (SCANZ) are just four examples. New media platforms are making it easier and easier for scientists to reach a larger audience and explain the importance of their work:
I wrote a piece for @NewsroomNZ about #BMSB and how scientists at @plantandfood & @AucklandUni are responding. Research in early stages, but @MPI_NZ and @HorticultureNZ have prioritized this #InvasiveSpecies as a top threat for #NewZealand #science. https://t.co/wQwbyJ0job
— Thomas E. Saunders (@TomSaundersNZ) February 4, 2018
Open Educational Resources
Open educational resources (OER) are freely accessible, openly licensed text, media, and other digital assets that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes. The advantages for individual users and institutional adopters of open resources are obvious: open access to a rich variety of teaching aids straight from the scientists themselves; reduced costs; access to cutting edge discoveries; ability to incorporate unusual or lesser known fields and information into curricula; resources designed in a way to maximise interest and engagement from students.
I’m very interested in contributing open educational resources about New Zealand’s invertebrates. Our bugs are so interesting and unusual – They need to be shared with the world! Once I get some free time I’ll work with Science Learning Hub to get some cool entomology resources into our schools.
What could be cooler than seeing your science being taught in schools?