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Let's talk science: Why researchers ought to reach out to the public

Sneha Kulkarni | Dec 10, 2015 | 12,485 views
Let’s talk science

Science has seldom been a topic of drawing room conversations. The general public tends to believe that science is a complex subject that is best left to its stakeholders – the researchers. Moreover, they perceive researchers as an elite and reclusive crowd that sits in ivory towers. This communication gap between researchers and the public has resulted in growing miscommunication about science, divided opinions about scientific matters, and lack of informed decision making. A few months ago, after meeting with Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a renowned climate scientist from UC San Diego, Pope Francis spoke about global warming, having a significant impact on public awareness on the issue. This instance sparked renewed discussions among both the scientific and non-scientific community about how proactive researchers can bring a change in the public’s perspective on scientific matters.

Over the years, science has fallen prey to sensational journalism and miscommunication. In a widely cited incident, Scott Adams, a writer and cartoonist, had called in to question the trustworthiness of science. Although it is commonly accepted that science is pivotal, the lack of expert involvement in scientific discourse has given way to misconceptions and mistrust. If the non-scientific community is involved in science-related discussions, they would become capable of making informed decisions on matters such as genetically modified crops, climate change, and so on. Moreover, knowing how their tax money is being utilized, they could have a say in governmental decisions on health care policies and even provide their inputs in research funding.     

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