SM
Seismology

Uncategorized

Taking into account the cultural context to improve scientific communication – Lessons learned from earthquakes in Mayotte

by Laure Fallou and Rémy Bossu

 

Since 10th May 2018, a series of earthquakes has hit Mayotte Island, and it has not stopped yet. This seismic activity is very unusual in the area and has left not only the citizens, but also the authorities and the scientific community puzzled. Soon after the outset of the crisis one could observe the rise of a distrust atmosphere and of conspiracy theories.

 

Figure 1 Mayotte geographical localisation

 

A sociological analysis of Mayotte case study shines a light on the importance of assessing the information needs and the socio-cultural context to improve communication towards the public during such crises, and therefore to establish trust towards both the scientific community and the authorities. Bringing social sciences into a seismic case study, we focus less on seismic data than on citizens’ representations, expectations and perception of the crisis.
Findings presented here are based on a qualitative analysis made both of sociological observations on social media (Facebook and Twitter) between May 10th 2018 and February 15th 2019 and on a series of 10 semi-structured interviews with a panel of people living on the island. It was completed with a questionnaire launched by the Euro-Mediterranean Seismic Centre (EMSC). 468 people answered between June 6th and July 17th 2018. The questionnaire mainly concerned technological habits related to earthquake information search.

 

Mayotte socio-cultural context

Mayotte is an overseas department and region of France located in the Indian Ocean. According to the last 2017 census, nearly 257 000 people live on the Island. Despite being a part of the French Territory, Mayotte demographics are substantially different from mainland. The population is much younger and poorer: 84% of the population lives beneath the poverty threshold, 28% of households are not equipped with running water and 59% with toilets. Additionally, education level is significantly dissimilar: in 2000, 35% of men and 40% of women were considered as illiterate, against only 7% of the general French Population [1].
Major cultural differences also include religion and languages. Muslims represent 95% of the population [2] compared to 6% of the general French population [3]. Moreover, animism is still a significant component of the local culture. Regarding languages, even though French is the official language, knowledge of French is rather low and two native languages are commonly spoken: Shimaore and Kibushi. According to a 2007 census, only 63% of aged 14 and older reported that they were able to speak French. The Island is also affected by a high insecurity level.
Due to the distance from the capital city, to the history of the territory and to major cultural differences, people in Mayotte maintain an ambivalent relationship towards the authorities and political institutions. In one hand they express high expectations for governmental actions and on the other hand they show resignation on the fact that the government will not take them into account. Distrust level is therefore very high.
Finally, to understand Mayotte case study, another important cultural factor to consider is the risk culture. Until the beginning of the earthquake swarm, few earthquakes had impacted the island. Seismic risk was considered as low by the population and most of the inhabitants did not even acknowledge the existence of the risk. Besides, Mayotte is not subject to high disaster risk. Major risks include cyclone and floods, but none of them have significantly impacted the island over the recent past years. In the interviews, residents of the islands expressed how unprepared they were and declared a form of unawareness about risks potentially impacting Mayotte. Risk culture among the population was found to be rather low.

 

Figure 2 Word cloud based on answers to “How would you describe your experience with the seismic events of spring 2018″1

 

Mysterious seismic events

On May 10th an earthquake was felt on the island and was soon followed by a series of others. Earthquake after earthquake, the situation appeared more unusual than expected and the phenomenon was first left unexplained from a seismic point of view. To date, over 130 earthquakes have been indexed by EMSC, but many more have actually occurred. The BRGM has recorded 129 of them for February 2019 alone [4]. Still, due to a lack of sensors in the region, many of the events felt by the population were not recorded by any seismic institution. These earthquakes have not yet exceeded M5.8 [5] and are located offshore, around 50km from Mayotte coasts. No casualties were recorded so far. However, buildings have been weakened for 10 months, especially because many dwellings are actually makeshift shelters.
During the first two months of the crisis, the series of earthquakes led to a high level of anxiety among the population. Citizens were not used to such seismic activity and declared strong sleep troubles, the fatigue adding to the distress. Additionally, with earthquakes happening at night and people feeling unsecured in their houses, some decided to sleep outside for several nights. The general anxiety clearly appeared through EMSC’s questionnaire results presented on Figure 2. Interviewed citizens expressed how the lack of explanation on the earthquake causes and on the potential duration of the crisis were increasing the worry [6]
During the first two months the origin of the earthquake swarm was still unknown. Due to the small amount of sensors in the area, precise data were also lacking to lead significant surveys about the phenomenon. Scientists started to discuss this strange activity on Twitter, and to gather information about it. The interest within the international community especially grew up after a mysterious quake on November 11th [7], with a low frequency signal being detected by international networks. This signal seemed to confirm that the swarm is actually linked to undersea volcanic activity [8]. Scientific projects to better understand the situation and monitor the events thanks to additional sensors have then been set up.

 

 

Failures in communication

In this context of high anxiety, low risk culture and mysterious seismic events, information expectations towards the scientific community and the authorities were very high. During the first weeks, citizens were in need of basic information about earthquakes. With a low level of knowledge in seismology prior to these events, citizens were expecting to know the cause of the events and to get seismic information about earthquakes they felt, in a timely manner. Some of them also expected seismologists to be able to predict earthquakes. Information needs also included safety measures to take, both during and after a quake, but also for long-term perspective such as for instance, how to make sure houses will resist and what were the evacuation plans in case of destructive earthquake. They finally expressed a need to know that the authorities and the scientific community were working together to learn more about the phenomenon. These information needs, sometimes perceived as unrealistic by the scientific community, are deeply shaped by the education level, risk culture and the emotional context.

 

 

“Scientifically it’s not clear, religiously it’s worse. What explanation can reassure me and help me sleep at night?” – Screenshot of a Facebook Post expressing the need for explanations.

 

However, during the first weeks of the crisis, barely any information was made available to meet or leverage these expectations. Throughout the interviews, citizens expressed their dissatisfaction due to the lack of information they received from the authorities and from the scientific community in general. The perceived communication insufficiency can be partly explained by the lack of seismic data (due to the low number of sensors and to the specificities of the crisis) and by a lack of preparedness to manage such a crisis and communicate about it. EMSC was not exempt from criticisms. As for other actors, data were lacking and for many earthquakes felt by the population, no information was made available to EMSC services users [9]. Not only they were not provided with a magnitude or location, but above all they had no confirmation that what they felt was actually an earthquake [10]. Besides, whereas projects to gather more knowledge about the phenomenon were actually being slowly set up, citizens perceived a lack of information about that and felt their questions and worries were ignored by the authorities and the scientific community.

 

 

« Thursday February 21th 2019, 20:00 : no publication from BRGM available yet” – Screenshot of a Facebook Post expressing information expectation.

 

Nevertheless, communication was found to have improved throughout the crisis, especially with the Prefecture (administrative center) communicating on a more regular basis and using social media which increased the communication efficiency. FAQ were also published to answer the most frequent questions. Still, citizens expressed a form of resentment towards the seismic institution releasing bulletins with earthquakes details twice a month or less often. Scientific publications started to be released, giving first insights on the causes of the swarm [11].

 

From suspicion and conspiracy theories to citizens commitment

The perceived lack of communication became suspicious to many inhabitants. Interviewees expressed their lack of understanding regarding the “silence from the authorities and the scientific community”. As part of a resilient process to face the crisis, they needed to give sense to the situation (Paton et al., 2010). They thus had to find both explanations for the unusual seismic activity and for the silence of the authorities and seismic institutes. Sense-making in disaster is highly cultural (Krüger et al., 2015), as proven once more by Mayotte Case study. Following interviews and observations on social media, several explanations for the earthquakes were found. Due to a strong influence of religion, many considered that God was responsible for the shakes; this theory was largely spread by the local and influential imams. This conjecture was reinforced by the fact that the first earthquakes coincided with Ramadan. Animism beliefs also supported the theory of a buried-alive cow shaking its head, provoking tremors.
To make matters worse, prior distrust, added to the authorities’ perceived silence on these events, even led to conspiracy theories. The most widespread was that secret drills were causing the earthquakes, and that the authorities did not want to communicate about it. It was also mentioned that the government would know the real cause of the earthquake but due to the seriousness of the situation they were afraid of the population reaction and tried to keep quiet about it. Finally, some explained the authorities’ silence by their will not to finance dwellings reparations. Alleged complicity between the authorities and the scientific institution was set up as an argument to explain the mutual perceived silence.
Conspiracy theories, which root on the socio-cultural context, thrived on the lack of communication: people not only had to find answers to their questions, but also they had to make up an explanation for this lack of communication. They were also nourished by the local media coverage of the events, with many articles using the lexical field of mystery [12], adding to the suspicion.
Interviewees reported that these rumors and theories circulated not only on social media but also within the local communities, at mosques, in schoolyards. However, on social media and especially on a Facebook Group dedicated to the series of earthquakes, some citizens tried to fact check these rumors and exchanged scientific information. When the authorities and the seismic institutions started to communicate, their messages were shared on the Facebook group, which gather today more than 10 200 people. Trust towards both the authorities and the scientific community resulted in being heavily impacted.

 

Conclusion: Taking culture and the social context into account when communicating about earthquakes

Crisis are interpreted through culture, which influences risk perception, disaster preparedness, understanding of the crisis and response (Furedi, 2006; IFRC, 2014).
Mayotte case study reveals the need for a scientific communication that acknowledges the socio-cultural context. When communicating about seismic events or seismic risk, one should understand the prior level of knowledge and popular belief regarding seismology. In the present case, there was first a need to explain basic facts about seismology with simple terms. Because of the low earthquake risk culture and of the imaginary surrounding seismologists work, it was necessary, for instance, to reaffirm that earthquakes cannot, to date, be predicted and that seismologists cannot (yet) explain all facts about what is happening under our feet. Indeed, no information is already information. Moreover, in such cases, scientists need to remind the public that research takes time. When disasters are so unusual, there is a time-lag between the immediate questions from citizens and the necessary time to lead quality research on causes, effects and future implications. Communicating about the reasons for a lack of information is valuable as it leverages citizens’ information expectations. If results are not available yet, communication about the fact that research is ongoing will still contribute to reduce anxiety level.
Moreover, taking into account the socio-cultural context when communicating to the public implies not only to reflect on the information to provide, but also on the efficient way to share it. For instance, Facebook is a core part of the technological culture on the island. Citizens use it intensively and it is the place where the questions were asked. However, the scientific community -seismologists and volcanologists- discussed the case on Twitter. This was understood well by the prefecture which made significant efforts to communicate both on Facebook and Twitter. In the case of Mayotte, communicating efficiently also implies to communicate in three languages to be inclusive and target non-French speakers.
Overall, Mayotte case study illustrates well what Mercer et al. (2012) demonstrated: one should take prior scientific knowledge and assumptions into account to communicate about risks and science. Moreover, support prior research claims that organizational stakeholders rarely, if ever, receive too much information during these time-sensitive, equivocal events (Sorensen, 2000). Regarding disaster related scientific communication, what matters is not only to communicate but also how this communication is perceived and interpreted by the public.
Finally, Mayotte example advocates for the social responsibility of the whole scientific community (including social sciences) to work together to efficiently bring answers to the citizens, increase resilience in communicating better about what is known and what is yet to discover. And there is still so much to discover thanks to the new sensors being installed.

 

To go further:

To learn more about cultural factors and disaster management check out the EU project CARISMAND
To get more information about the seismic activity in Mayotte : http://www.brgm.fr/content/essaim-seismes-mayotte-points-situation

 

___________________________________________________________________________________

[1] https://www.nouvelobs.com/rue89/rue89-mayotte/20111020.RUE5109/non-non-non-mayotte-ce-n-est-pas-la-france.html
[2] http://www.outre-mer.gouv.fr/mayotte-culture
[3] http://www.pewforum.org/interactives/muslim-population/
[4] http://www.brgm.fr/sites/default/files/seismes_mayotte_20190228_00h00.pdf
[5] more info at : https://www.emsc-csem.org/Earthquake/earthquake.php?id=666504#pics
[6] The results are based on the questionnaire launched by EMSC, with 468 answers. Led in French, the words have been translated in English for dissemination purposes.
[7] https://volcanohotspot.wordpress.com/2018/12/22/if-it-wasnt-for-science-we-might-never-have-known-mayotte-%F0%9F%87%BE%F0%9F%87%B9-eqs/ and https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2018/11/strange-earthquake-waves-rippled-around-world-earth-geology/
[8] http://www.brgm.eu/news-media/earthquake-swarm-mayotte-clearer-understanding-is-emerging
[9]
EMSC runs a range of tools including a mobile app (LastQuake), a Twitter bot and websites to detect felt earthquakes and provide users with information about them (To learn more see : Bossu et al. 2018).
[10]
This will be further developed in a following blog-post
[11] https://eartharxiv.org/d46xj?fbclid=IwAR2UugfcV1d25RrtCzNEgbvGuO_9YoDQS6b4BxIZNVe5juuL_X_4BO-fSg0
[12] See for instance [in French] https://la1ere.francetvinfo.fr/mayotte/naissance-volcan-au-large-mayotte-670649.html

___________________________________________________________________________________

References:

Bossu, R. et al. (2018) ‘LastQuake: From rapid information to global seismic risk reduction’, International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. Elsevier Ltd, 28(February), pp. 32–42. doi: 10.1016/j.ijdrr.2018.02.024.
Furedi, F. (2006) Culture of fear revisited : risk taking and the morality of low expectations. Continuum. London.
IFRC (2014) World Disasters Report: Focus on culture and risk. doi: 10.1111/j.0361-3666.2005.00327.x.
Krüger, F. et al. (2015) Cultures and Disasters: Understanding cultural framings in disaster risk reduction, Routledge Studies in Hazards, Disaster Risk and Climate Change. doi: 10.4324/9781315797809.
Mercer, J. et al. (2012) ‘Culture and disaster risk reduction : Lessons and opportunities’, Environmental Hazards, 11(2), pp. 74–95. doi: 10.1080/17477891.2011.609876.
Paton, D. et al. (2010) ‘Making sense of natural hazard mitigation : Personal, social and cultural influences’, Environmental Hazards, 9(2), pp. 183–196. doi: 10.3763/ehaz.2010.0039.
Sorensen, J. H. (2000) ‘Hazard Warning Systems: Review of 20 years of progress’, Natural Hazards Review, pp. 119–125.

 

 

Authors
Laure Fallou –EMSC (Euro-Mediterranean Seismic Centre)
Rémy Bossu – EMSC (Euro-Mediterranean Seismic Centre)

AGU 2018

seismonology

The AGU Fall Meeting: that other large geosciences meeting in the world. As every year, thousands of people burned their yearly share of carbon flying across the globe. Just like last year, the meeting was held on the East coast – but instead of balmy New Orleans, we found ourselves in somewhat chilly Washington DC. For those coming from Europe, this meant slightly less travel (as well as a slightly less gruesome jetlag) – for those coming from (East) Asia, it was probably the other way around.

And although DC is not as vast a US city as AGU’s traditional spot San Francisco (DC’s generally low architecture and building style having an oddly un-American and Old Worldy feel), the conference centre itself was spacious and well equipped for the 25 000 people it would host for the week of 10-14 December. For oral sessions, Seismology found itself mostly in the adjacent Marriott Marquis hotel, while one enormous poster hall down the basement of the conference centre (spanning multiple blocks) connected all of the geosciences, grouped together in themes ranging from the “Earth’s Interior” to “Beyond Earth”. Interestingly, seismology finds itself in every of these themes – especially with the recent addition of the lone seismometer of the Mars InSight mission.

The conference resulted in some decent workout for even the most avid armchair scholars, as we sped back and forth between the talks and posters. It is impossible to adequately summarise a five-day conference – but here are some highlights according to our envoyées Lucile, Marina and Nienke.

Lucile

“Large meetings, such as the AGU Fall meeting, are always the busiest times of the year. They remain the best occasions to share and discuss science. They always feel like a high school reunion too, as we see colleagues and friends we haven’t seen for years. This year at AGU, as usual, I bit off more than I could chew, and planned to attend too many talks and posters. However, I was impressed by the number of sessions on the interaction between aseismic/seismic behavior. For years, we had seen these two topics in different sessions. There seems to be a better consensus now that they are intrinsically linked.”

Large meetings always feel like a high school reunion…

Marina

“During AGU 2018 I had the opportunity to help the AGU ‘Sharing Science’ Program from backstage. Bridging the gap between science and society is not an easy attempt and the mission of the AGU ‘Sharing Science’ is indeed to increase knowledge on how to effectively communicate the goals and the results of research projects to broader audiences, including journalists, educators, students, policy makers, general public.

A wide range of activities was proposed by the team. Among them, the most eye-catching was definitely the ‘Sketch Your Science’ wall, where scientists were encouraged to draw pictures depicting their research. The initiative was enthusiastically welcomed by the scientific community and largely followed on social media (e.g. #sketchyourscience on Twitter). No need to mention that within a few hours, the white wall had become a jumble of colors, covered with volcanic eruptions, chemical reactions, space shuttles, bacteria, river water pollution and fault systems.”

…a jumble of colors, covered with volcanic eruptions, chemical reactions, space shuttles, bacteria, river water pollution and fault systems…

Sketch your science wall

The ‘Sketch your Science’ wall at the 2018 AGU Fall Meeting

Nienke

“Perhaps the most interesting contribution that I saw was that of emeritus scientist Roger Borcherdt, who presented a theory of ray propagation in viscoelastic media. While ray theory could be considered the foundation of all of seismology, I had never before seen a demonstration of how strongly ray paths can change as a result of attenuation. In an Earth that is increasingly found to be strongly heterogeneous, I suspect that this may prove to be very relevant theory for many. The talk was based on a book which has been out since 2009 but for which a new edition was published recently that allegedly contains updated content on head waves and numerical examples (see Borcherdt, “Viscoelastic Waves in Layered Media”, Cambridge University Press, 2018).”

What else happened…

…the renaming of our research field as “Seismonology” on the first day in the poster hall – quickly removed but captured by early-bird scientists.

seismonology

The brand new field of seismonology

…the footprint of global politics in the programme, with many sessions showing withdrawn abstracts or missing presenters due to denied visas.

US visa denied for scientist

One presenting author who was clearly frustrated at being denied access to the USA

…and equally political, spotted on a British poster: a prominent EU flag next to the ERC logo.

British poster with European flag

A hint about Brexit?

Looking for 2019 Guest Writers

Do you like writing about Science, have an idea for a new blog post or just want to try your hand at science communication?

 

 

You’re in the right place. The EGU Seismology Blog welcomes guest contributions from scientists, students and professionals in the Earth, planetary and space sciences for the 2019!

If you want to get involved, contact the blog editor – Marina Corradini  (corradini@ipgp.fr)

If in doubt, you can submit your idea for a post via the Submit a Post page on GeoLog, or email the EGU Communications Officer, Olivia Trani, who can help with initial enquiries and introduce you to individual blog editors.

When the Earth gets animated

Animations are a terrific way to engage students and to support public understanding of Earth Sciences. Yet, to make scientific research accessible, visual and fun is not easy. How do animations bring geophysics concepts to life? We asked the expert, Jenda Johnson (IRIS Education and Public Outreach)

When it comes to explaining Earth’s processes, animations come to the rescue.
Tectonic plates drifting on the asthenosphere, volcanos spewing lava and rubbles from their crater, earthquakes fracturing the crust and propagating till the Earth’s surface… Geoscience processes all deal with natural systems that change over time. Yet to understand dynamic subject matters is not easy-peasy, especially for learners, whether they be students or general public. To remedy this, graphic representation has increasingly been used as support [1], also thanks to the advancement in computer and software technology.
One of the reasons animations are now found so widely is the belief, shared among many, that animations can help learners understand complex ideas more easily. A recent study by Alessi and Trollip (2001)[2] has shown that mental representation is crucial for learners. Compared to static graphical representations, animations and simulations attract and capture attention; they facilitate science learning by reducing the level of abstraction of spatial and temporal information and the load of cognitive processing  [3], allowing the audience to build mental representation of unseen processes. Last but not least, their cosmetic appeal makes learners more motivated [4].
Animations are fully-fledged effective learning tools. But what is the educational strategy behind them? How can we create animations that are good for learning? Find out in our Interview with the Expert, Jenda Johnson.

 

Jenda Johnson has been working with the IRIS Education and Public
Outreach group since 2006. She produces geoscience animations,
videos, & interactive rollovers to depict geologic and seismologic
processes for teachers, students and general public. We asked her a
series of questions about her scientific, communication and graphics
expertise in making any geoscience project eye-catching, accurate
and clear for educational purposes.

 

 

 

What is your story, Jenda? Why Geology?
The truth is, I didn’t study Geology until I was 40 years old. I had had a career before that, but I had recently married a geologist and became surrounded by them. Being around geologists eventually prompted me to take a class of geology… mainly to understand the jargon of the people who came for dinner! Words like ‘andecite’ or ‘fractionation’ would no longer be a mistery to me. So I took a class, which then snowballed into getting a Bsc and a Msc in volcanic processes, and received a courtesy faculty position. But at that point my husband was transferred to Hawaii. Unfortunately, even though my master degree was in volcanic processes, there was no work for me there.”

 

That’s what drew you to science outreach?
“As a grad student, I was addicted to field mapping and research. I never envisioned a career into public outreach, honestly. But then I had to move away from research, where my heart was. I left the university and I joined the group that filmed lava flows in the Hawaii… And I got into filming for seven years! Starting thinking how to share that with the public and how much it can increase people’s interest in science: that’s what completely won my heart at that moment of my life.”
What about IRIS?
“Eight years later, when my husband and I returned to Oregon, I was contracted for a temporary position by IRIS. When I inquired as to what my job was, I was asked to figure out what was needed to help teach the public about earthquakes and seismology. Even though I had a seismology class as undergraduate, I never understood it very well. I also realized that the teaching material offered on the internet was not easy for the public to understand. Many people don’t see life in 3D: what they really need is a stepwise process of an animation.”

 Despite the apparent need for science outreach, achievements are still not sufficiently recognised. In times of an increasingly competitive funding climate, high-quality publications remain the currency of science and time spent on outreach activities equals less time for research.” says Dr Anne Osterrieder [6]

Scientists are now calling for increased public outreach and communication efforts. Why in your opinion?
“I do respect the outreach aspect of science at every stage of career. It is a tragedy that more students aren’t engaged by science, because when taught well it can be a fascinating journey into learning about the entire universe. In middle- and high-school geoscience education, too many teachers don’t fully understand geophysical processes, thus have a difficult time conveying an enthusiasm that hooks students to love science. Within academia, most focus only on his/her own research project, not taking time to share it with the public. Some component of outreach ought to be a part of every research projects: by describing your work in common language you can help the general public and the teachers understand your research, which results in interesting more people.”

 

Thanks to the establishment of several outreach activities in the last decades, the public knowledge of geoscience topics has improved. But still, some issues remain objects of debate among the masses. Is there still a topic on which science communicators should insist?
“I think that when there is scientific controversy, the major issues include misconceptions, lack of understanding, and a lack of ability to search for correct information. It is true that despite the numerous outreach activities, some topic still need to be explained. If I had to choose, my personal pet would be ‘predicting earthquakes’, which has been a hot-button topic. There are “conspiracy theorists” out there who believe that the government is hiding data. What I have always liked about seismology is that on the IRIS website all data is available in real time to anyone, especially if you subscribe to the data-management-system groups. Data is not hidden.”

 

Could you describe the process of creating an animation?
1) Research the topic. For complex topics I work with a Geophysicist to write out a story board that can be spoken aloud and that we can envision graphics for.
2) Collect photos and illustrations that others have made, and/or more commonly, make our own (use proper softwares).
3) Pull pieces together into an animation program.
4) Find science reviewers who are knowledgeable in the particular field of study to check for accuracy.
5) Have IRIS reviewers check to see that the animation works.
6) Get a narrator to read it.

 

Science disclosure is often the best compromise among scientific content, design and simplification of tough topics for the audience: what is your strategy? What is the aspect you focus more on when creating an animation?
“You need to find a common denominator that fills the gap between the science and the audience. In science animations, one of the mistakes often made is thinking that good art equals good science. Beautiful art may attract the general public but it doesn’t mean it is good science (but maybe that’s my excuse for not having artistic ability). Sometimes graphic artists are hired with no science background. They make very realistic pretty images but geophysical processes often can’t be shown to scale, because they are too huge or too small. So, I would say animation graphics should be designed with as little detail as possible to reduce information processing demands and let audience focus on the most important scientific aspects of the process.”

“People have fear of science: they have the fear they are not smart enough. And you want the audience to feel smart”

What are your key-points for an effective communication to the public?
“Know your audience. Try to address their level of knowledge: people need to be able to follow your presentation, what you are saying, and at the same time understand your slides. This can often be mentally challenging. Don’t underestimate that. Adjust language and graphic presentation accordingly. People have fear of science: they have the fear they are not smart enough. And you want the audience to feel smart.”

 

What is your suggestion for early career scientists to assertively communicate their science?
I remember as I was working on my master thesis, I enjoyed speaking with my peers. Accumulating and using a vast new scientific vocabulary can make you feel very powerful. But here I might caution you: be careful, adjust your speech depending upon who you are speaking or writing to. Keep in mind  that the words you chose can exclude your audience too. “If you can’t explain a process to your grandmother, you may not fully understand it” – that’s my motto. Do not try to impress your audience with all the fancy new words you have accumulated during your studies such that you use them to the exclusion of others following what you say.”

 

 

If you were to name a person who inspired you during your career, who would (s)he be?
“During this career (one of many!) in seismology outreach, I would definitely name Dr. Robert Butler. I began filming his workshops and now we work side-by-side on our trickiest animations. Robert had spent thirty years teaching at University of Arizona, he was made AGU fellow for his paleomagnetism research. He could have easily continued on that route. But quit it all to move to Portland and dedicated the rest of his career to teaching middle and high school science teachers about plate tectonics and earthquakes. He has received the highest marks in his workshop assessments, winning him a National Geoscience Teachers Award (NAGT). The way he uses his knowledge to teach teachers its really impressive and he taught me a lot: it is not ‘dumbing it down’, it is ‘clarifying it for the grandmothers!”

Jenda Johnson during one of her frequent backpacking trips on the mountains.

 

This post was written by Marina Corradini, with revisions from Walid Ben Mansour and Maria Tsekhmistrenko

 

 

Walid Ben Mansour is a post-doctoral research fellow at Macquarie University. He works on multi-observable probabilistic tomography for different targets (mining, seismic hazard). You can reach him at walid.benmansour[at]mq.edu.au

Maria Tsekhmistrenko is a PhD student at the University of Oxford. She works on the velocity structures beneath the La Reunion Island from the surface to the core mantle boundary. You can reach her at mariat[at]earth.ox.ac.uk

 

_________________________________________________________________________________
Jenda Johnson creates animations for IRIS to help Earth-science teachers understand complex seismologic processes, available here: www.iris.edu/earthquake. Member of the Board of Advisors at Oregon State University’s College of Earth Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences.  Among other collaborations: UNAVCO,  U.S. Geological Survey, Teachers on the Leading Edge (TOTLE), Cascadia EarthScope Earthquake and Tsunami Education Program (CEETEP), Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, Haleakala National Park, EarthScope/USArray, High Lava Plains Seismic Array.

 

References:
  1. Lowe, R.K. (2004). Animation and learning: Value for money? In R. Atkinson, C. McBeath, D. Jonas-Dwyer & R. Phillips (Eds), Beyond the comfort zone: Proceedings of the 21st ASCILITE Conference (pp. 558-561). Perth, 5-8 December.
  2. Alessi, S.M. & Trollip, S.P. (2001).Multimedia for learning: Methods and development.Boston, MA; Allynand Bacon.
  3. Cook, M. P. (2006), Visual representations in science education: The influence of prior knowledge and cognitive load theory on instructional design principles. Sci. Ed., 90: 1073-1091. doi:1002/sce.20164
  4. Wouters, P., Paas, F. & van Merriënboer, J.J.G. Instr Sci (2010) 38: 89. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11251-008-9079-0
  5. https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2012/feb/20/making-science-accessible