It was a stunningly bright summer afternoon by the ocean, and the breeze was cool. SANDSWA was holding its inaugural happy hour at The Farmer and the Seahorse restaurant in La Jolla, and I didn’t feel like going. Work had been rough lately. But I went anyway because a number of my colleagues were going to be there, and I thought perhaps I’d have a chance to share some successes—and challenges—with them. Little did I know, that afternoon would mark the start of a new era in my career. Continue reading “How I moved from academia to industry, thanks to SANDSWA”
I learned how to be a science writer and communicator aboard the research vessel Sally Ride, which is why it was very special for me to share it with you, my SANDSWA peers. Networking with and learning from this talented pool of people is helping me level up, and I am pleased I was able to give back to the group by way of a tour.
There may be science writers who do it for the paycheck. I don’t know any, but I assume they’re out there. The science writers I know do it because they love science and want to spread that joy. They are constantly amazed by the new information.
But there’s also a sense of public responsibility. Science shouldn’t be a private thing that only a few people understand. We need to spread the word.
Politicians sometimes cherry-pick a specific research project to mock as wasteful. Sarah Palin famously took on fruit fly research in 2008. She was probably talking about a $211,000 effort to study Bactrocera oleae, a pest that strikes olive trees, in an effort to support the California olive industry. Still, a lot of Drosophila melanogaster researchers bristled at the attack.
This kind of rhetoric is hard to combat – sound bites are much easier than science. If she was talking about Drosophila, it would be hard to go on CNN and explain the value of model organisms without getting too far into the weeds.
Like so many other things, we need to be proactive. These attacks stick because people often lack the fundamental scientific understanding to recognize their flaws. We probably can’t remedy that entirely, some people refuse to be informed, but we can at least create a knowledge base to help people understand.
We live in a time when people often dismiss science – the one discipline that has the best chance to help us through our many crises. That’s discouraging, but it doesn’t mean we’re not making a difference.
Which is basically what we’re doing in our day jobs. Every time we post an article or news release or blog post, we’re adding to that knowledge base. We’re creating a firewall against bad information with accessible science. Perhaps someone is interested in understanding the argument and a Google search leads to your explainer. That’s a win.