Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Moving forward . . .

Last night, despite the grants that needed to be revised and the classes that needed to be prepped (woe is me), I managed to do a few extra pages in my book. I usually manage a handful of pages a few times a week. Normally, this reading is not really worthy of mention - either I am reading something vaguely related to research or a novel. Lately however, I have been reading "Don't be such a Scientist" by Randy Olson. I think I paid $2 for it; it has increased in price.

Anyway, it has been an interesting read. Looking over the reviews on Amazon, most people found it reasonably helpful; a few did not, and a few reviews are a little out there. However, I was thinking about offering to run a reading group on it with graduate students. Olson makes some great points about how science communication contributes to the lack of science knowledge, and may also be an important factor in the push back against science and education. He argues that in communicating science, scientists often come off as arrogant or unapproachable and sometimes down right mean.

I am not going to argue that any time I have to deal with creationism I am completely level headed. I fume. I huff. I draft a response and redraft, revise and pace. In fact, I dealt with such an issue earlier this week. And finally broken down and confronted the individual about the material, framing it from a logical stand point - your references are too old, why is up with that? Confusion poured out. In this case, creationism was confusion. In some ways (this was a student) I had failed. I had been teaching them concepts for 8 weeks, and the student could not apply the knowledge from class to the website they had found the material. We had a good chat. We decided to revise the post using more recent research (from the last 20 years) and will ultimately talk about how to tell peer reviewed writing from a website and evaluate sources.

This, and what is going on here (see the prior post) is what prompted me to really start thinking about how I am communicating science. The second point Olson makes (of many, but that are important to my current thinking and worldview - not to mention I am only 63% into the book) is about science blogging. Specifically, how much anger and frustration is poured out into science blogging. Olson suggests that this anger is the first motivation to put key to pixel, and most blogs start with this early reaction against something. Good blogs either do not start this way or quickly move beyond this. I have now committed the first cardinal sin of blogging, and I plan to move forward in the level headed way. I also plan to get students from my lab group blogging here as well. Hopefully, this will keep the conversation from being too focused on the stuff I find cool and will keep me from sounding too much like a scientist.

So moving forward, we will be posting. We will be learning how to use shiny new features, like pictures (I know, not new or shiny). And we will be thinking. And communicating. And not letting anger or frustration drive posts but a joy for the subject.

Thanks for reading!

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