To face global threats, scientists need to change

May 28, 2017

Diseases, energy crisis, climate change, antibiotic resistance, pollution etc.. You name it ! How can we deal with these global threats?

The simple answer is “together”.

Lets face it, no single person or policy maker or law can make this happen. Only when people around the globe make these challenges a personal issue, there is even a bleak chance of a change being brought about. It might seem impossible. Well is it?

Many of us stop learning once we pass out of school or college. We are no longer aware of the latest advancements in science and their implications. For example, how many of you knew that diamonds are no longer the hardest material on the planet? What I am trying to get at is times are changing and we are no longer aware of the evidence based conclusions or solutions anymore. It is time for scientists who have been studying these issues or parts of these issues for years to step up and educate the public.

Here is an open letter to all the scientists and researchers out there.

Hello there, I can imagine how fascinated and dedicated you are about your research, you might have spent years planning and carefully working on it, day in and day out. You might have also spent several months writing up your work to share it with other scientists in your field but have you ever taken a day or two to share it with the public who matter the most?

I guess the first question that crossed your mind was “who cares apart from someone from my field”? Scientists should know better that everything in this world is interconnected. From energy crisis to climate change, everything is interconnected in someway or the other and every bit of knowledge is necessary for people to put together and see the entire picture.

I know that you have done your years of research and your stats works out to be perfect but people don’t like to be told what to do. Shoving your results on their face is not the way to move forward. If you do so, most of them are not going to deny the facts but rather will cherry pick facts that align with their beliefs.

A change is possible when people are given a chance to solve the puzzle themselves.

Also lets face it, a one day of “science march” is not going to change the world or lead to evidence-based policy making. It’s a process and it takes time. Scientists need to establish a long-term relationship with the public before we can start to see a change and such a change is more likely to be adapted and sustained.

I hope I have convinced you enough, for you to acknowledge that a long-term relationship is needed to seed the change of tomorrow.

So how can you do this? A number of funding agencies have recognised this and now require scientists to get involved in public engagement. Of course public engagement can be done in a number of ways. What I propose is writing a blog post accompanying every publication, describing the study in a wider context and showing people where it fits in the larger puzzle. Write it in a simple way without jargons that people can’t understand.

Well thats the job of the media isn’t it?

To be honest people want to hear from the scientists themselves rather than through some news agency with clickbait titles. Scientists need to connect with the people on a publication level (every paper you publish) so that when it matters the most, they might be willing to listen. Describe what we have learned and are learning everyday to everyone from school children to policy makers. Don’t let the sleepless nights and extra hours of your tireless work go in vane. Share your science with every one. When the bubble between science, scientists and public are broken great things can happen.

Not convinced yet? Look at this tweet that I had made asking people on what they prefer?

Most people clearly wanted scientists to connect with them directly. Science is one of those fields where trust and personal connection matter the most. (here are a few cherry picked replies)

Some said a combination of both scientists and journalists because scientists seem to clearly get journalism wrong.

Anyway you get the point. People would like to hear from you in an easy and understandable format.

If you are convinced to blog about your research, great! But the problem is not solved yet. There is sadly no “one go-to place” on the internet where people can read articles written by the authors of the research themselves. As much as it is important for researchers to write about their research it is also important that they are all in one reliable place.

To solve this, I had established a platform called “The Surg” solely in an effort to provide a destination for people to read about the latest research from the scientists themselves.

I have been working hard, trying to convince scientists to write about their research here and also to making short videos explaining their latest research. A few more amazing students have joined me in his venture now. A small group like us will not be able to do everything but if you join us, together we can do greater things. If we can work together and get your research and your colleagues research blogged, may be more researchers will start writing. It starts with YOU !!

Together we can change the world.