It’s All About Me (2/17/15)

Or so it seemed!  We had to do some more difficult exercises today.  We grouped up and spent three minutes talking only about ourselves, starting each sentence with “I am”.  Not like the cute middle school poems, but more like looking into the mirror with someone standing behind you as you vocalize what you see.  While it was difficult to think of me me me, it was harder to watch the others struggle.  I was listening  and I wanted to engage them about what they were saying but the exercise was supposed to be one sided.  One thing I was able to do was relate something about me to the similarities that I heard from my group members.  We talked about filters afterwards, not the kind that keep you from cussing out loud, but more filtering things out for simplicity sake.

We talked more about jargon in communication.  I brought in an abstract from the fellowship application that I just submitted.  The application directions stated that abstract should be approachable for scientifically literate lay people.  I tried to avoid jargon and if I had to use it, I explained it in the text.  My partner had some difficulty reading it but some of that may have been because english is not their native tongue.

Soapbox of Jargon:  I don’t know, I get a little annoyed when the burden of poorly executed science education is shifted to the scientists only.  I understand eliminating words that can be misguiding, complicating, or coarse, but at some point we have to write to an appropriate audience.  I don’t think that my dissertation should be on a level that everyone that is literate should get it (not that I would ever intend to hide any of it from anyone).  I do think that, given the occasion, I should be capable of discussing my dissertation research with anyone that is interested.  The difference is that the dissertation is a treatise from one scientist to another, written in an effort to allow sufficient testing of the phenomena observed within.  I think my disappointment in the accessibility argument stems from the blatant abuse and “Spin” that we see in public media and idiotically self-exposed, social media.  Its when the rigors of science that are worded to be adversarial in nature, and conservative in their claims, are used to the detriment of scientific literacy.  While this is likely not an issue for authors trying to eliminate jargon, it does seem like simplification for communication’s sake can oversimplify to the point that anyone can pass judgement on the result.  This rings all too true when political leaders try to impart their will on the methods of science in an effort to support their own opinion.  Instead of just complaining I will offer a glimpse of an alternative.  We, (educators, scientists, and members of society), can try to promote more critical consumption of media and science.  Identifying a news source with its underlying political bias is not enough.  We have to do something more.  If we start early, when we first teach children about news, history, and literature.  It’s just an idea, but looking at who runs this place, it seems like it is needed.

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