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Is it important to communicate science effectively?

Why is it only recently that science communication is recognized as so important? What has changed? Are forum’s like this important?

Jennifer Mitchell from Dorset (Age 24-35)

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2 Responses

  1. I believe that it is vital to communicate science effectively. Science is used in so many parts of our lives from the obvious such as mobile (and “landline”) phones and the internet, transport and healthcare, to the less obvious such as farming and food production, and the cosmetics industry. For us to be able to understand what is going on and to make informed decisions on an issue we need to have clear and accessible information on science.

    All scientists should be able to explain what it is that the do in terms that are familiar to all of us, and be happy to answer reasonable questions their subject.

    I believe in this so strongly that I work in science communication to make sure that the output from the National Physical Laboratory is presented in a way that can be understood.

    The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is the UK’s National Measurement Institute and is a world-leading centre of excellence in developing and applying the most accurate measurement standards, science and technology available to man. For more than a century NPL has developed and maintained the nation’s primary measurement standards.

    NPL’s measurements help to save lives, protect the environment, enable citizens to feel safe and secure, as well as supporting international trade and companies to innovation. Support in areas such as the development of advanced medical treatments and environmental monitoring helps secure a better quality of life for all.

  2. If scientists don’t communicate effectively, they can not complain if their work is misunderstood or misrepresented in the media and in public understanding. The penicillin story illustrates this. Howard Florey and his team at Oxford who brought penicillin into clinical use refused to talk to the press at first, whereas Alexander Fleming who had made the initial discovery was willing to talk to journalists. As a result Fleming’s part was emphasised by the newspapers and the role of Florey’s team neglected, which caused a lot of needless resentment.

    Kevin Brown
    Trust Archivist & Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum Curator
    Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust
    St Mary’s Hospital
    Praed Street
    London W2 1NY
    http://www.imperial.nhs.uk
    http://www.st-marys.nhs.uk/fleming_museum.html
    http://www.st-marys.nhs.uk/experts.html
    Penicillin Man, Alexander Fleming and the Antibiotic Revolution by Kevin Brown, 2004, is published by Sutton Publishing (ISBN 0-7509-3152-3; Paperback edition, 2005, ISBN 0-7509-3153-1). The Pox: the Life and Near Death of a Very Social Disease, 2006 (ISBN 0-7509-40417) is also published by Sutton. He is currently working on Fighting Fit: Health, Medicine and War in the Twentieth-Century. He is available to lecture on these and other topics in the history of medicine

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