Thursday, January 26, 2012

Southern Fried Science: new generation of scientists tackling media communications

Scientists can be an odd lot. They delve into the world of minutiae, seeking the ultimate truths, while knowing that it all may be rewritten with the next experiment or expedition. And, unfortunately, in a time when science can hold the key to addressing many of the worldwide challenges we face, scientists can also prove to be poor communicators, opting for peer-reviewed papers that then gather dust within the covers of obscure journals.

This is where I have tried to make my skills and services known to the scientific community, as it is vitally important that scientific research (and the issues and implications it addresses) be distilled and disseminated to policy and decision makers and the public at large. Fortunately, there is also a generation of new scientists, albeit small, who are trying to develop and utilize the skills of broad communication, whether it be traditional or contemporary (i.e.: social) media, to get the word out. The good folks at Southern Fried Science are a perfect example.

Here is a post from David Shiffman, alias WhySharksMatter, from Southern Fried Science that captures both the enthusiasm for communicating science and the frustration, knowing that today's media has shied away from science in favor of entertainment of a lower common denominator.

Core themes of 2012: Underrepresented issues in marine science and conservation

One of the many unfortunate consequences of the decline in traditional media has been a reduction in science reporting. The formerly great CNN science unit closed in 2008, followed soon after by the health and science page of the Boston Globe. Alarmingly few trained science journalists are left, and people without proper training are being asked to cover the few science stories that still make it on the air ( I was once interviewed about shark research by the weatherman from CNN’s “American Morning”). With few exceptions, science and conservation stories are no longer considered a priority to the major news networks and newspapers. However, science is no less important to our everyday lives.

As bloggers, we are blissfully free to write about the topics of our choice without an editor telling us that we only have 3 minutes to discuss overfishing so that a story about Kim Kardashian’s wedding can air. As professional marine scientists, we know all too well what’s going on in the oceans, and we know all too well what important stories aren’t being reported by the mainstream media. We consider it both a duty and a privilege to give our readers in-depth analysis of a variety of underrepresented issues in marine science and conservation.

Just because research doesn’t come with a press release and embargo doesn’t mean that it isn’t critically important to understanding and protecting our oceans. We’re proud to have written about conservation issues surrounding such diverse marine life as krill, menhaden, orange roughy, sea otters, and sandbar sharks, among many others. We’re proud to be among the only media coverage of thorny skates being denied Endangered Species Act protections, and of the disappointing result of an important international fisheries management meeting. We’re proud to have explained so many threats to the ocean, including detailed coverage of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, destructive fishing methods, pharmaceutical products from our wastewater, altered sea turtle sex ratios as a result of climate change, deep sea mining, and viruses released into the wild as a result of aquaculture.

If there’s a new discovery about the oceans, we’ll cover it regardless of whether the mainstream media considers it headline news. While we’ll never have the resources of the mainstream media, blogs like Southern Fried Science have become a great resource for adding details to the conservation and science stories that make the news, and for detailed reporting of those that don’t.

Source: Southern Fried Science

No comments: