Just came back from this talk by Dr Maureen Rouhi, deputy editor-in-chief of the Chemical and Engineering News (C&EN) in American Chemical Society (ACS), titled "Communicating Your Science To The Public: Why and How". It was a superb talk, even though I was late for quite a few minutes and there were no super-impressive fireworks going off in the middle of the speech.
The talk started with introducing to the audience the field of science communication, journalism and writing. She focused on what is the importance of this field and what do the reporters expect for a newsworthy mention. Of course, writing about Science is not just about writing about your research for your own lab members. It almost served nothing if you can't explain what you are doing to the outside world, your co-field scientists, scientists from other field, intellectuals, reporters and even public like your own neighbour! And the thing is when you are trying to tell the Uncle selling chicken rice what are you doing, you don't actually say 'I am doing protein purification of a three-finger toxin, by using resins or chromatography and blah with many more technical terms', instead you might want to consider 'I am working on this protein which has a significant structure similar to three-fingers, where I try to produce and separate it from others'. Well, maybe I am still not good at summarizing it, but I hope you get what I meant.
Next would be why should people care about what you are talking about. When you say 'I had my breakfast', that only tell people what you did. It didn't tell others the point of the conversation other than it being a polite talk for awkward silence, or - it might be a starter of a conversation! Compare that sentence to this instead, 'I had my breakfast this morning and I saw a car accident just outside the office'. By this, you might be getting some, although not all, of your audience asking, 'Oh, car accident, how did it happen?' Things like this catch the audience attention because they could roughly relate things to them, maybe it's someone they knew, maybe it was a faulty traffice light they passed by everyday or maybe they might want to avoid that street later during lunch break. Many of us might not like this way of living, doing things that has concrete purpose to uus, but I believe everything has its purpose, it depends on how did you package your information.
The next part of the talk was a case study about the arsenate-DNA news which was once a blast on the media. I remembered about the news but didn't really follow the trail at that time. I guess I was a much different person back then. Other sections include attitudes when getting your work to the media and also how the press work to bring your work to the platform. It has a few point with it and I would conclude it as 'treat nicely and respect each every people from every profession and be considerate'. It's an effort to work on research, it's an effort to write about your research too! Overally, the talk have substance and I am glad I got to grab some time to be in there.