Friday, September 30, 2016

Communicating science to the public

At Pubmed Central I found a very interesting article by neuroscientist E. Paul Zehr titled With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility - A Personal Philosophy for Communicating Science in Society. It appeared in the September/October 2016 issue of eNeuro (Volume 3, No. 5). The abstract says:

“Many think that communicating science is a necessary and rewarding activity. Yet finding compelling, relevant, and timely points of linkage between challenging scientific concepts and the experiences and interests of the general public can be difficult. Since science continues to influence more and more aspects of daily life and knowledge, there is a parallel need for communication about science in our society. Here I discuss the ‘middle-ground hypothesis’ using popular culture for science communication and applying the ‘FUNnel model,’ where popular culture is used as a lead-in and wrap-up when discussing science. The scientific knowledge we find in our hands does not belong to us—we just had it first. We can honor that knowledge best by sharing it as widely as possible using the most creative means at our disposal.”

His text mentions several examples:

“For example, I used the Walking Dead to illustrate human motor control in a zombie context (Zehr and Norman, 2015), and Darth Vader to consider phantom limbs, embodiment, and neural prosthetics Zehr 2015a). The bulk of my work in this area, though, has been to use superheroes.”

“....I explored themes of plasticity in biological systems in ‘Becoming Batman: The Possibility of a Superhero’ (Zehr, 2008), and the enhancement of biological function with technology in ‘Inventing Iron Man: The Possibility of a Human Machine’ Zehr, 2011b).”

The image was adapted from an 1856 lithograph of Michael Faraday giving a Christmas lecture at the Royal Institution.

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