Communicating Science Effectively

My mom, like many parents, is on Facebook and sometimes follows my friends that she knows (or vice-versa). She recently pointed out one of my friend’s profiles to me. This friend is a mother to three children and is very into fitness and health. Some of the things she promotes do not align with my beliefs as a food scientist, however she has a fairly large following. My mom was pointing out how much she liked her social media platform. I rolled by eyes because I become annoyed with the whole “clean eating” and “juice cleanse” fads. However, I had to admit that she was obviously doing something right to have so many individuals seeking advice from her.

After spending some time looking through her social media outlets, I picked up on some characteristics that set her apart from others. She was relatable, she was often vulnerable with her viewers, and her steps to taking action were very simple. Are scientists relatable? No. Are they ever vulnerable to those they are sharing information with? No. Are the items they produce easy for others to understand or implement? No. Well there you go folks. This is why the general public has a difficult time trusting the science world. Of course these are blanket statements, but for the most part I find them to be true.

Even for scientists that desire/have a knack for doing these types of things, there is pushback from their very own. Some scientists don’t believe that anything other than the “hard sciences” is science. And even within the hard sciences, if researchers tend to move more towards qualitative research or engaging with the general public, they can be looked at as doing things of lesser nature.

There is a reason why Mommy Bloggers tend to flourish. Scientists don’t always seem like real people with real lives. Even though “communicating science” is a hot topic and tends to be one that everyone says they support, when it comes down to it, the support isn’t fully there from all sides. I would like to see a shift in more respect and understanding for qualitative research and for initiatives that link scientists and the general public in a more personal way.

I am currently a part of a working group titled “Don’t Eat the Pseudoscience” that works to make science that is related to food more easy to understand. This initiative is supported by some of the faculty members and peers in my department, but I would like to see a much larger group of scientists beginning to understand the crucial need for connecting with consumers.

Facebook: Don’t Eat the Pseudoscience

Twitter: DontEatPseudo


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2 Replies to “Communicating Science Effectively”

  1. Marion Nestle makes a good point in one of her books, possibly “What to Eat,” but I can’t fully remember. She notes (and I am paraphrasing) “people often complain that diet trends change too fast, when in fact the prevailing wisdom of the past 100 years has been to eat more fruits and vegetables.” I think your points are spot on in terms of people liking to relate to one another, but I also think people just like new stuff. New trends get press, new products get advertising and shelf space. “New” “superfoods” must work because they are new. For a lot of these problems, a little bit of sound education would go a long way.

  2. Agreed. I don’t think we, food safety individuals, could ever contain the innovate atmosphere of the food industry. “New” doesn’t have to be negative per se. I just feel that education has to evolve with the new trends that emerge.

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