There’s an under-utilized platform for science writers and communicators, and I think it deserves more attention: the r/sciencecommunication subreddit.
It happened practically overnight.
For some years now, voices in the scientific and journalism communities have been asking scientists to expend more energy reaching out to the public.
The contention that scientists communicate poorly with non-academics isn’t new. But judging anecdotally by the frequency the message now appears in print—and the high profile venues broaching the subject—there seems to be a consensus building that scientists need to do a better job engaging with those outside of their academic circles.
Apropos of tomorrow’s official vote by the Electoral College, I put together a map showing how the influence of states would have changed in 2016 in a proportional EC system. (Admittedly, it was really just an excuse to turn the U.S. into a giant heat map.)
The vote tallies are (mostly) in for the 2016 election cycle, and we’ve hit another anomalous event. Twice now in the 21st century, the winner of the Electoral College vote (and hence the presidency) lost the national popular vote. Prior to 2000, the last time a split vote happened was 1888 and, not surprisingly, the increasing frequency of its occurrence has led to yet more pontifications against the Electoral College per se.
Imagine the rising din of buzzing wings. Millions of mosquitoes flitting about in dense swarms on a small island.
Now imagine an equally cacophonous sound: the dissent of the residents living on that island.
Lately I’ve been spending quite a bit of time reading about the federal government’s regulatory systems and the extent to which public inputs exist, beyond elections. I was preparing to write a piece on the Zika virus and the GMO mosquito being harnessed to control it, and stumbled across the federal government’s notice-and-comment. I ended up climbing down a very interesting rabbit hole, and one that turns out to be pretty relevant for scientists.
It’s important that people with scientific training take a proactive stance on public policy; executive rule-making will always benefit from well-informed scientists providing hard data to regulators, wherever they happen to fall on the political spectrum. Scientists have the potential to make real contributions—when they participate.
At some point in the future I plan to really dig into the notice-and-comment mechanism, with the hope of providing context, guidance, and concrete examples to help scientists and otherwise-interested citizens make meaningful contributions to federal regulations.
For now, a look at rule-making through the lens of the recent high-profile GMO mosquito controversy.
Expect more to come!