Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Science and Media

A portuguese newspaper is starting a program to get scientist making an internship in their offices to promote the communication of science to the public. Which is a nice idea. This is what they say why it does not work nicely now:

A relativa pobreza da comunicação e divulgação da ciência realizada pela comunidade científica e pelas instituições de ciência deve-se em grande parte a um desconhecimento por parte destes profissionais das rotinas, critérios e cultura dos media. Este desconhecimento é gerador de desconfiança, fechamento ou mesmo de mal-entendidos e conflitos que poderiam desaparecer através de um maior contacto entre a comunidade científica e a comunidade dos media.

Translated (badly, but hopefully understandable...):

The relative weakness of communication and divulgation of science done by the scientific community and their institutions is caused to a huge part by a lack of knowledge on the side of these professionals about the routines, criterions and the actual culture of media. This lack of knowledge generates distrust, closedness or even misunderstandings and conflicts which could disappear if a better contact between the scientific community and the media community is established.

I am one of the first to rant about the incompetence of scientist to promote their works. There is nothing worse than physicists trying to do publicity about their own work; most of the time the result is boring people to a slow and horrible death. And most of the time there is not even a conscience of having to transmit science to the public (which is dumb and won't understand it anyway...)

But to just blame it on the scientist I think is also wrong. A lot of journalists have passed through the sacred corridors of our physics institute. They have asked questions. They filmed. They did not even try to understand the stuff people tried to explain them. They filmed people in lab coats (nobody actually ever wears them in a phyics institute, there is no need...) standing in front of complicated machinery with lots of Blinkenlights (which has been specially constructed for this filming and serves no purpose whatsoever). They have absolutely no idea how science works.

So, what I would propose is an exchange instead of an internship... Get scientists into the newspapers and get journalists into a university (a science faculty to be precise, as most of them have studied something or other). The only problem: find a university actually crazy enough to do this and find journalists crazy enough to do a thing like this.

No comments: