I have posted previously on the work of my fellow Oklahoman Monty Harper, an award winning children’s singer-songwriter who has a strong interest in spreading science to kids via music. Well, Monty was recently interviewed over at SingaboutScience.org, and it’s a really fun read. It’s also a lesson in how scientists can convey information about their research to the public.
SAS&M: WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR SCIENTISTS AND OTHERS ON HOW TO MAKE SCIENCE INTERESTING AND ACCESSIBLE TO STUDENTS AND THE GENERAL PUBLIC?
MH: I think scientists definitely should be out there talking about their own research more. At the most basic level scientists try to figure out how the world works. This is fantastically interesting and important! Yet ask the average person what a scientist does, and they have no idea. If we want the public to support science, and if we want to motivate students to learn science, this has to change.
What I observe is that scientific research IS interesting and accessible to students and the public. You don’t have to do anything to make it so. But putting the public in contact with the science still takes effort. And then I think having them react well is largely a matter of presenting the material without getting in the way!
A few things I’ve observed scientists do to get in the way of explaining their work: focusing too much on details, focusing too much on results, not really knowing your own story, using jargon, trying to lower expectations or apologizing for what you have to present, deflecting attention to something else you think will interest your audience more, over-explaining, oversimplifying.