Do scientists need educating in the importance of science communication?
The interesting talk given by Karen Bidewell on the job of being a university press officer opened my eyes to an aspect of science communication I had not previously thought of.
This is the balancing act between a press release appealing to a newspaper editor and also pleasing the scientists who have spent years on that research. For their work to be drastically simplified can understandably be frustrating, but it is vital so the general public can learn about the scientists research in an accessible way.
Many scientists feel that ‘ground-breaking’ stories of ‘miracle cures’ have been common knowledge for years…but this can be a misconception. A lack of communication from the scientific community to the general public means these important breakthroughs are not always widely known straight away.
An example, is the danger of sunbeds, which I don’t feel are broadcast enough at all. The number of young people that use them is still growing, as are skin cancer rates at an alarming pace. According to Cancer Research UK ‘It is estimated around 86% of malignant melanomas in the UK in 2010 (around 11,100 cases) were linked to excessive exposure to sunlight and use of sunbeds’. However vital scientific knowledge that links sunbeds and skin cancer is not common enough knowledge in the general public. It took until 2010 for the use of sunbeds in under-18s to be banned.
It is examples like this where good science communication plays a key role.