Outreach Rot

Five day. Muggish, mostly from precipitation, I suspect. Not quite refreshing as I walked in the park. 

I was considering an article [Link] entitled “Science communication training should be about more than just how to transmit knowledge.” This is enough – almost – to damn the whole article.

Science isn’t primarily about training; it’s about education. Or should be. And I get concerned when some derriere-hat talks about scientists as if they were some slightly better schooled handy man (or woman.) This is probably understandable since the author are advertising academics. My guess is that they know less about science than most five year old Nerds. 

I was particularly taken by this:

“But times change. Leaders in the scientific community are increasingly calling on their scientist colleagues to meaningfully engage with their fellow citizens. The hope is that such interactions can improve the science-society relationship at a time when we are confronting a growing list of high-stakes, high-controversy issues including climate change, synthetic biology and epigenetics.

The gauntlet has been issued, but can scientists meet it?”

It seems to illustrate the bad think. Science doesn’t have leaders. It has scientists. Appeal to authority is wrong. Everything has to be testable, at least eventually. 

Engagement does not mean pandering, which seems to be what these snake oil salesmen are proposing. Engagement is a form of communication and that means some effort and adaptation on both sides. And how do we measure meaningful? Sounds like advertising hype to me. Let us not forget that every advertisement contains AT LEAST one inaccuracy (lie, if you will.) 

From what I can see, the gauntlet metaphor is part of that inaccuracy. It implies a duel, at least to anyone who has any knowledge of medieval history. (I shan’t go beyond that inference.) The outreach thing is largely self-inflicted by academics who are trying to sell something. I am not sure it is science. I suspect it is funding for academic scientists. But that’s another blot.

But overall, this is rubbish of the rotting organic type.

Exactly like almost all advertisements. 

The academics would be better served paying attention to Chad Orzel than these panacea purveyors.