Day 251. Working for free

In April 2013 on April 21, 2013 at 9:29 pm

rocket science

Many of the most creative and big-thinking science-y people that I know do stuff for free.

@upulie and @DrYobbo run RealScientists, with the help of a few others.

@upulie – yes, her again – with pal @scientistmags put together the beautiful Letters to Sir David Attenborough.

@willozap along with…you guessed it….@upulie created the brilliant Facts for the PostFactual podcast.

@kristinalford runs TEDxAdelaide and related events, with lots of assistance from @AdelsAlison, @petradz@nwynn and extra volunteers (no, @upulie doesn’t help with this one).

These people all have full time ‘other’ jobs. They all have social and community commitments outside of science. They all have families and loved ones to spend time with. But in addition they have an extra drive to follow their interests and deliver science, technology, story-telling and the development of ideas to people outside of their immediate circles.

The thing is, science kinda relies on people like those I’ve mentioned above to spread the word for free. There is a limited pool of money for science, this we know. Many scientists even struggle to get funded to perform their laboratory work, let alone get paid to communicate what they know and think to a broader audience.

It’s an unsustainable situation according to mathematician Izabella Laba. In her post last week The limits of writing for free, Izabella said,

We, as a society, could decide that having senior scientists engage with the public is a thing worth money. We could set up infrastructure that would make it possible. Or else, we could continue what we’re doing now, in academia and elsewhere: hiring fewer people, making them work more for less, and setting out unrealistic expectations.

Are we being too precious as scientists to think that everyone wants to, or should, hear about what we do, and that we should be paid for it?

Or maybe it’s just that in science, like most other fields of expertise, there will always be passionate people who work long hours and don’t expect compensation. They do it for the love.

This weekend, I’m feeling the love.

[image of ‘rocket science’ thanks to The Puzzler on flickr]

  1. […] scientists undertake communication activities for free, driven by passion and a desire to spread the word about how wonderful and diverse and useful […]

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