SciComm Lit Review: Sophia Burke reviews “Don’t Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style”

SciComm Lit Review: Sophia Burke reviews “Don’t Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style”

“If you have become frustrated, as I have, with the lack of action and public support of climate change research and proactive policy, this book will be an eye opener.” ~S. Burke

Book cover of Don't be Such a Scientist - just the title text, author's name (Randy Olson), and a small beaker with a martini olive in it

 

What is the reviewer’s motive and perspective? 

I am a fourth year PhD student at the University of New Hampshire studying the effects of climate change on small ponds in the subarctic. My interest in science communication has grown out of my love for my work and my eagerness to help inspire the next generation of scientists. I believe it is imperative that we as scientists fully understand our responsibility to connect with our audience and communicate our work and its importance as clearly as possible.

Who can benefit from reading and referencing this SciComm Lit? 

If you have become frustrated, as I have, with the lack of action and public support of climate change research and proactive policy, this book will be an eye opener. Though not necessarily a step-by-step guide to becoming a better communicator, this book will encourage you to stop and think about your own communication style and the styles of those around you. Dr. Olson has an unsympathetic view of scientist-communicators, blaming them (us!) for why the public doesn’t believe more strongly in climate change. He believes that scientists are too cerebral, too caught up in the details and nuances of their science, to communicate their messages effectively to the public.

While I don’t believe that all of the blame lies with us, the scientists, I do think it is important to understand how we can be part of the problem. In an age where people have so many options for entertainment and learning, we need to be able to hold their attention long enough to get our message across. Read more about SciComm Lit Review: Sophia Burke reviews “Don’t Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style”

SciComm Lit Review: Josh Silberg reviews “If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating”

SciComm Lit Review: Josh Silberg reviews “If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating”

“In many ways, Alan Alda represents an archetype of one type of audience member that people try to reach with their science communications. He is a non-expert. He’s interested in a range of scientific topics from health to psychology to ecology. He is exceptionally curious. If this sounds like one of your regular target audiences, then this book is for you.” ~J. Silberg

 

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What is the reviewer’s motive (expertise, curiosity, sharing lessons learned, etc.) and perspective (research scientist, educator, science communicator, etc.)? 

I’ve researched everything from humpback whales to whale sharks to rockfish—I just couldn’t decide on one creature to study. So I set out to find a career where no two days are alike. [Editor’s note: read Josh’s #MySciComm post for loads of details about how he found that career, in #scicomm.] Now, I’m the Science Communications Coordinator for the Hakai Institute—a British Columbia-based research institution where intrepid scientists from a variety of fields study the coast from the icefields down to the oceans. I help scientists at the Institute communicate coastal science stories through blogs, videos, infographics, and the occasional poem.

I’m fascinated by strategies that can be used to teach communication skills to scientists of all career stages. I’ve found that many scientists are keen to improve their ability to connect with diverse audiences both inside and outside their field of study, but they often don’t know where to start.

Who can benefit from reading and referencing this SciComm Lit (researchers, reporters, science communicators, educators, students, etc.)? 

Alan Alda’s book is especially useful for scientists, educators, science communicators, and students who are ruminating about how to better relate their science to a specific audience. It’s easy to try to reinvent the wheel, especially if we don’t regularly interact with people from other professional backgrounds. We can forget that other disciplines—in this case, acting and improv—offer valuable insight into our own fields. Read more about SciComm Lit Review: Josh Silberg reviews “If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating”