There is a great conversation forming around an article by Matthew C. Nisbet and Chris Mooney in a recent Science article (6 April 2007: Vol. 316. no. 5821, p. 56, DOI: 10.1126/science.1142030). The authors suggest that:
to engage diverse publics, scientists must focus on ways to make complex topics personally relevant
A noble thought and one that is getting a lot of chatter on the science blogs, but there is one fundamental problem: how can scientists engage the public when the public can't hear their voices? By publishing in a commercial journal that is rarely seen outside the halls of academia, scientists guarantee that the attempts to engage the public will fail. This very article demonstrates that dysfunction in Technicolor - I am a citizen and a scientist and I don't have a subscription to Science so can't read the article. Now, publishing in a reputable and widely read journal like Science will get the attention of many scientists, but the authors ultimate goal is stymied by the continued reliance on conversing about things that matter greatly to all citizens, in an expensive bubble. One really good way to make complex topics personally relevant is to get them out there, so they can be dissected and expanded on by anyone who has the time, expertise and desire. That includes members of the public. If a scientist explains science in a paper forest, and no citizen is there, is it really knowledge?
Scraped from Science Blogs