Bridging the Gap – The Problem With Science Communication

For many of us, science is inaccessible. It’s a complicated realm of equations, statistics and findings jumbled up in to a large pot of jargon. Today, the science of climate change is developing almost as fast as the Arctic is warming, yet most of us don’t understand what half of it means. So where are we going wrong?

Scientists have particularly long winded ways of explaining things which has been guided by the academic training they’ve endured. Through University I was taught myself that getting the best marks was about explaining as much as possible in a shorter essay as possible (‘quality not quantity’). Now I look back on it, I guess this is where the problem lies. Science uses jargon to summarise entire systems into one word. These words become a mere sentence in one paragraph and a small paragraph in one essay. Even if you can afford the pricey subscriptions to ‘Nature’ or ‘Science’ magazines, they are simply trying to fit too much in for us to comprehend.

“Many scientists have a bad tendency: they often speak in a way that is incomprehensible to the general public. I know what I am talking about because I am one of them. In our defense, traditional scientific training doesn’t typically prepare us to be effective communicators outside academic circles.

Maddalena Bearzi

From the outside, alien terms like ‘ocean acidification’, ‘permafrost feedback’ and ‘thermohaline circulation’ are both horrible to look at and seemingly out of our depths. Each term is as complicated as the next. When media tries to cover this research, they too have little time to explain the jargon and simply throw the long winded words in anyway.

By the time information has reached us, it is still lacking clear cut explanation. The science is factual and important whilst the reader wants to learn, but the communication is poor. This is where the problem lies. Bridging the gap is about using visual and simple methods to pick apart these concepts into snippets of information, rather than overload the public with an entire earths system in one article.

I have seen the other side of these ‘scientific gates’ and though not glamorous, it is an incredibly knowledgeable and insightful world that should really be accessible us lot on the outside. After struggling myself to understand the science at the start of my university course, I’ve made it my goal to help bridge the gap between science and public knowledge (or at least try to).

With your suggestions, I’ll be starting a blog series titled ‘What on Earth?’ to try to help bust long winded scientific terminology. So I want to hear from you, what would you like explained? Which words and phrases have been popping up from day to day with no real direction for what they mean? Comment below or head to my contact page if you have jargon that needs ‘busting’!

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