The previous post addressed the issue of why academics should bother with science communication and outreach activities, based on a recent article by Prof. Iain Stewart and Ted Nield. This next post in the series is concerned with what the general public already know about geology/geoscience, and how this underpins what should be, or needs to be, communicated, and how.
Every breed of scientist is coming under increasing pressure and encouragement to communicate their research and knowledge to the wider public. For each discipline, sub-discipline, and not-quite-a-discipline, there are differences in the way science needs to be, and should be communicated, depending on the appeal of the subject, and the target audience(s). A recent paper by Iain Stewart (from TV, and a professor of some sort – he even has his own Wikipedia page!) and Ted Nield (sci-comm jedi, and editor of Geoscientist magazine), set out to explore how geoscientists can effectively communicate and engage the wider public with their science. How do we get people from taxi drivers, ice-cream men, the barrister at Starbucks, you, and every other person out there interested in geoscience, assuming of course that they want to (which, as you’ll see, a surprising many don’t). Their study is pretty wizard, but unfortunately it’s stuck behind a paywall, which means fewer people will be aware of what I reckon is a pretty important study for geologists to get hold of, and equip themselves with (Note: I have spoken to Iain about this, and he’ll hopefully be making a copy available somewhere!) So I just kinda wanted to summarise the key issues and points raised, as well as the suggestions made to overcome engagement obstacles to help make geologists more effective science communicators.