The Pink Drink Effect

Yesterday a rather brilliant physiology researcher, who blogs as Isis the Scientist, replied to my recent post “The Trouble with Scientists” with one of her own titled – can you believe it? – “The Trouble with Journalists.”

Dr. Isis notes that neither of us really got the title right. She proposes “The Trouble with the Old Tired Drama between Scientists and Journalists.” I had to laugh because I based my original title on an old Alfred Hitchcock movie, The Trouble with Harry, in which the plot centers on a body that just keeps reappearing, much like the ongoing irritable discussion between journalists and scientists only more bullet-riddled.

Dr. Isis writes: It’s the same fight over and over. I think that part of the reason this discussion gives me so much trouble is because much of it is based on the touchy-feely qualitative type of reactions that are the antithesis to science. An older scientist says something admittedly delusional and he becomes the poster child for all that is wrong with science communication. A journalist gets the story wrong and becomes evidence that journalists don’t know how to cover science.

Agreed. But this IS starting to change and I believe that’s actually due in part to rise of science blogging. For a long time, the culture of journalism and the culture of science have been distinctly separate entities. But within the culture of blogging, scientists and journalists can find themselves on curiously similar ground – working to open up the world of science for others. It’s not only about new ways of telling the story of science, it’s also about new relationships – and I think new understanding – of each other. Our mutual interests bring us together at conferences like Science Online.

Or, as Dr. Isis points out, she and I occasionally improve our understanding during an evening that looks like this:

We spend these evenings, of course, dedicated only to our mutual professional interests .

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2 Responses to The Pink Drink Effect

  1. I’ve lived in both worlds, and I prefer the communication of science. With some exceptions, scientists must, perforce, be intensely and often narrowly focused on their specific research. They often lack the opportunity to move beyond their esoterica and must become thoroughly enmeshed in their specific milieus. I found that constraining and far prefer the world of science communication, where every day can mean a new discovery. And the scientists’ immersion, I think, can make it difficult to articulate the relevance of what they do for those who are not immersed. Those of us who can at least grasp their work and its relevance can tell others about it. Of course, there are practicing scientists who do a great job of communicating more general science, but they’re a precious rarity. After all, they’ve got science to do.

    In other words, we need each other. I’ve got nothing to write about or learn if they’re not working, and they’ve likely got limited avenues of general dissemination without some able translators. Yes, I’ve read some horrible news releases and also science articles in the mainstream media that make the scientist in me tear out her hair, but I also rejoice in the huge network of stellar science writers and bloggers out there who keep my mind fed on a daily basis with delicious courses of new scientific knowledge. Mmm…knowledge.

    I write because what I learn is fascinating enough to drive me to share it, and I learn because science continues to fascinate. But my preferred color of drink is a lovely black and tan, perhaps the occasional pale gold. To each her own.

  2. Isis the Scientist says:

    I totally *heart* you!