Science Speaking for All

Glaciers are magnificent, colossal masses of ice, but don’t be fooled by the seemingly still, white, beautiful ice. Glaciers are dynamic forces of nature, and the research represented by the scientists here is as diverse as glaciers are stunning. How do glaciers move? Why do glaciers suddenly become more active and “surge?” What is happening to the snow, ice, water, and rock that are all interacting on the surface of the glacier, at the base of the glacier, and within the glacier? How do we use computer models to understand and predict how it all works? And ultimately, how do changes in climate affect glaciers, and how do changes in glaciers in turn affect the world?

All of these scientists certainly know their stuff, but my role here is to work with all of them on how they can effectively communicate their stuff to non-scientists. I am leading a couple of workshops for scientists with this goal in mind, which are a little different than your everyday lecture. Here are some of the things we have done so far:

In groups, one person acted as “scientist” while two others acted as “the public.” “Scientists” had to describe to “the public” a drawing on a piece of paper (with no charades), and “the public” had to recreate the drawing from that description (with no questions allowed). The idea: when speaking to the public, how you can get them on the same page with you.

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Getting “on the same page”

I asked scientists to think of a meaningful memory and write one-word descriptions on post-it notes. Was it fun, surprising, visceral, a family experience, a learning moment…? The idea: when you interact with the public, you want to create a meaningful memory for them.

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Meaningful memories on the log cabin wall

I challenged scientists to figure out what was inside a box, only by looking through a small hole in the side. They could stare into the hole, try to aim a flashlight in the hole, shake the box, or anything they wanted to try, except for opening or damaging the box. The idea: there is a pleasure inherent in the process of scientific discovery, whether you know what is in the box or not.

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The pleasure of investigating

At the end of the workshop, I asked them to use some of these strategies and write a blog entry that I could share with you here. So you will be able to get to know each of them and learn about what they do and why they do it, as they try to answer those big questions. And just maybe you’ll be inspired to discover more for yourself. Check back soon to hear more directly from each of them!

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