Geologists talk about the difficulty of communicating science

Geologists share their struggle over communicating science from Julio Avila on Vimeo.

Carey Legett, known by his nickname Chip, is a geology graduate student, studying planetary surface compositions using methods such as near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy, but trying to communicate his work to the public is a challenge, he said.

“What we’re doing is so narrow and specific of a type of study and field that even other geologists aren’t familiar with this technique,” Chip said. “So the fact that, to someone that doesn’t have any science training at all that this is difficult to explain isn’t surprising.”

An explanation of his work can be understandable, as his work progresses, reading a graph depicting light wavelengths and color may raise eyebrows.

As for Professor Timothy Glotch, who proposed the project to NASA and receives funding from it said the challenge of communication may be with scientists themselves.

“I think the basic problem is that scientists spend too much time in their own heads,” Glotch said. “You don’t spend a lot of time about, ‘oh how do I tell somebody else about it?”

Glitch added that scientists use time to try to work on “problems that you want to fix.”

Scientists do get assistance on communicating their work to the public through the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University.

More to follow.

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