A reflection on why I communicate science

Tonight I had the absolute pleasure of listening to Tim Radford speak at the ABSW’s annual lecture. It was a wonderfully eloquent ramble through his life as a journalist, and was truly inspirational. Through a series of unique and captivating anecdotes Tim told his story (which incidentally also gave insight into how journalism has evolved) from his days “on the waterfront” to his position as one of the most respected journalists of today.

A couple of things his said really struck a chord with me (and forgive me if I do not quote him entirely accurately, I am doing this from memory). One was that “science gives you a chance to write stories that have never been written before. This is such a privilege.” The concept that science can reveal entirely new, unknown aspects of the world in which we live in is something that drew me to science communication in the first place – in part inspired by Richard Feynman’s famous Horizon clip (which I provided the clip for in a previous blog post). The notion that there are these scientific gems which you can translate into a story which people will engage with is a truly thrilling prospect. 

The other matter that Tim mentioned, that is still swirling through my brain now, is that he always wanted to be read; that he wanted to share these stories with his readers; that he was sharing stories about science that people ought to know about. It made me examine why I want to communicate science; why does it matter to me that I want to pass on a scientific understanding of the world to a wider audience? I believe I started down this path because I naively wanted to make a difference; if people were better informed they would make better decisions about their lives. But I realise that life is not that simple! I think now that my desire to share my nerdiness with the world may be much simpler than that – that I want to shed some light on science, and share some wonderful stories about a subject I love.

Look out for the recording of tonight’s talk, which should be appearing soon. In the meantime see the twitter hashtag #sciencescribes for what people tweeted about tonight’s event and definitely have a look over his “25 commandments for journalists“.

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