Talking about science in the public sphere is a skill several different careers require.
Yesterday’s post addressed science journalists: today, science communicators. (I’m going to focus on written material just to keep it simpler.)
If we could profile the typical science communicator, what would he/she be like? What would be the necessary characteristics to have such a career?
→ The capacity to present science with knowledge and understanding. The matter of whether to be objective or subjective would vary depending on (1) your employer and (2) the goal of your writing. Communicators working for a science institution are required to ‘sell’ the work of their own institution scientists, and hence must be subjective. Bias is just part of the job in these circumstances. Other communicators would chose to present more objective material depending on the context.
→ The freedom to seek alternative opinions and explanations only if it suited the piece they were writing. Again, science communicators working for specific clients would not be required – indeed would often be discouraged – from seeking second opinions on the strength of research outcomes.
→ The ability to pitch your material at a level to suit your audience: this skill is critical for both journalists and communicators.
→ The ability to create a great story: a piece which is written well entices the reader forward, makes them want to read more even if the subject matter is complex. This skill is also critical for both journalists and communicators.
→ The capacity to sell science. The skill to engage the reader with science, to make science seem appealing, to provide evidence that science delivers outcomes, to make the reader aware of science and its value to society.
Science communicators require different skills to science journalists. That’s not to say one person can’t be both – it’s just that different hats must be worn to meet the expectations of each role appropriately.
[image thanks to spunkinator on flickr]