If a Fact Falls in the Forest and No One Hears It . . .

17 05 2010

Do scientists “believe” or do they “know?”
Is evolution a “theory” or a “law?”
Should scientists take such cultural communication questions seriously?

See Training Scientists to Be Better Communicators, Chronicle of Higher Education, excerpted from a new book by Dennis Meredith, Explaining Research: How to Reach Key Audiences to Advance Your Work (Oxford University Press, 2010):

Science suffers from its lack of a culture of explanation.

Scientists and engineers tend to communicate poorly in public controversies because—compared with, say, doctors and lawyers—their professions have not valued explanation. Their career advancement doesn’t depend on having lay-level explanatory skills. To progress professionally, scientists really need only to explain their work technically to other scientists—their colleagues, department heads, and granting agencies. But imagine what would happen to a doctor who couldn’t explain diseases to patients, or a lawyer who couldn’t explain the law to clients and juries. Their careers would be over.