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About a heavy share popularizers of science

The scientific approach 06.01.2017 at 07:18

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Scientist Roger Smith (name changed) never aspired to fame. But a few years ago, published in the journal Science important announcement is the opening, decided to avoid journalists. Suddenly his work was written everywhere, including the New York Times. He was invited to speak at the prestigious "conference of ideas", and he realized that he has the gift to speak to a wide audience about science in simple language. His speech at the TED conference gathered hundreds of thousands of views online.

However, the growing popularity brought with it an unexpected complexity. Although Smith continued to conduct high level research and the prestigious professional journals regularly publish their results, some of his colleagues in the scientific community began to take revenge on him for his growing glory. Smith began to receive waivers on their applications for funding new research. Anonymous reviewers that evaluated its grant application, left, in his words, "horrible comments", for example, called his work "advertised" or "too often appear in the press." In response to such a negative reaction, he refused a second public lecture at TED conference and was closed to the press doors of his laboratory. "I'm done, he thought in that period — more don't communicate with anybody".

This kind of resistance from the professional community, faced Smith, widely known as the "Sagan effect" — named after the astronomer and famous science popularizer Carl Sagan. Largely thanks to its growing fame Sagan was ridiculed by colleagues and lost various career opportunities, for example, became a Professor at Harvard University in the 1960s and a member of the National Academy of Sciences in the 1990s, "Said he spends too much time on populjarizatorskoj to the detriment of serious research," says Joel Levine (Joel S. Levine), now a Professor at the College of William and Mary, not separating then these idle fancies. The two scientists became friends when both were involved in the Viking program (NASA scientific program to explore Mars) in the 1970s

After a quarter-century after Sagan was not accepted into the Academy of Sciences, "the Sagan effect" continues to operate. In recent years several studies have been conducted that show that the scientific community continues to hinder the communication of individual researchers with non-professional audience, if we are not talking about eminent scientists of high rank. This way of thinking deprives society of the full scope of information necessary to make informed decisions on the most complex problems of our time — genetic engineering, climate change, alternative energy sources and others.

the Suppression of freedom of expression in the community of scientists prevents the resolution of important issues of politics and Economics, influenced by the PR people of all political persuasions, and only the strict facts can interfere with this. In particular, the less scientists to speak in public, the less frequently heard arguments refuting anti-scientific and pseudo-scientific views. Recognizing the right to educational work with the population only for the most experienced researchers, the "Sagan effect" also reinforces the impression that science is a field dominated by higher-status white men older. Although the proportion of women professors with doctoral degrees in the last 20 years has increased steadily, while the number of minorities in senior positions has grown (although not as fast), reducing public participation of these groups can lead to the fact that women and members of minorities with low public mission would be to abandon a scientific career.

we Recently interviewed over 200 active scholars who regularly appear publicly as guest speakers, popular bloggers or authors of books using high reader demand. We wanted to know how many of these cutting-edge science communicators are faced with the negative reaction of the professional community in response to their educational aspirations and under what circumstances. Our informal survey is consistent with the results of earlier studies that have passed the professional examination, has shown that the long-awaited change in the culture of the community probably is not far off. The increasing use of social media like Twitter, Facebook and more blogs, in addition to other changes taking place in the scientific world in recent years, it seems, breaks down some of the longstanding barriers to the wider dialogue between scientists and society as a whole.

Scientists-the singles

In a sense, the "Sagan effect" was the result of centuries-old ideas about how scientists should work. For example, in the midst of the scientific revolution of the XVII century, many researchers took the example of Isaac Newton, who entirely devoted himself to scientific activities and discoveries in the field of physics and mathematics and have never been married. These bachelors from science (and scientists were mostly men) believed the impeccable truth seekers who are not distracted by more mundane concerns, such as creating a family.

this attitude is alive to this day. Although today scientists are much more willing to marry and have children, they still must spend his life in the laboratory, at least their set up many University professors and mentors. That is all that distracts them from studies, such as hobby or participating in a public debate that could undermine their credibility as scientists. How does participation in the popularization of science on the results of professional activities in different countries?

Although this issue is poorly studied, the available results indicate that the "Sagan effect" still creates difficulties. However, high expectations only partly explain this behavior. Many of the scientists whom we interviewed for this article believe that the negative, tested them in relation to themselves, partly due to professional jealousy. "Many of these things are done behind your back," wrote us an email to Frans de Waal (Frans de Waal), a famous primatologist from Emory University. He added that according to information received from friends, his colleagues are unhappy that he engaged in educational work.

Two of us (Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen Macknik) faced similar criticism, engaging in educational projects. During the annual certification head of the scientific organization, which had worked the Martinez-Conde, lamented that her brilliant achievements in teaching during the reporting period, inferior to the number of publications on popular science. In the official review on one of the grant applications submitted by Macnicol to the National institutes of health, said that he pays too much attention to the popularization of science.

Although our career as a whole is not affected, we wondered, did this problem other scientists. By joining forces with Devin Powell, we addressed via e-mail, phone and personally to 190 of the best popularizers of science and had received responses from 81 of them. Many of the interviewed scientists reported that the outreach has benefited their career, others he has helped, and hurt. And some, such as Roger Smith, experienced mostly negative consequences. Some researchers found a creative way out of this predicament that are, in fact, a double life. For example, robotics Dennis Hong (Dennis Hong), University of California, Los Angeles says that in South Korea, where he grew up, he is extremely popular, but in the US his fame does not advertise. "In Korea, people recognize me and ask to be photographed with them, he says. — Today I live in one of two modes to communicate with the public in Korea, but the United States did not act outside the University. If you are too visible, if you constantly appear on TV, get on the cover of magazines, among scientists, in the academic community do not consider you a real scientist".

Unexpected fact

the Widespread in the scientific community the opinion that the popularization of science can't be serious scientists, not tenable, if we turn to the facts. Today many conducted studies suggest that scientists (and not second-rate), which regularly perform in public, and more successful in science. In particular, in 2008 the survey of more than 3.6 thousand scientists from the National center for scientific research of France showed that the active propagandists of science have published more articles in refereed journals had higher citation index than their colleagues not involved in the dissemination of scientific knowledge.

In another study, it was estimated the number of scientific papers and popular science articles published from 2005 to 2007

scientists in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, the UK and the USA. The results show that scientists who write about science in the popular press, and has published more papers in academic journals, and generally worked more than the majority of their counterparts (an average of 49.3 hours per week 47.8 hours the rest). In this mode worked and Sagan: throughout a 40 year career, he published on average one scientific paper per month — until his death in 1996,

, We expected that successful science communicators responding to our questionnaire, will support young scientists who embarked on the same path. But even they sometimes expressed their concerns, suggesting to scientists wishing to gain a foothold in salaried positions, to refrain from interacting with the General public as long as they don't get a post at the University. Daniel Kahneman (Daniel Kahneman), winner of the Nobel prize in Economics in 2002 and the author of the 2011 bestseller "Think slowly... Decide quickly" (Thinking, Fast and Slow), says that widely known at the initial stage career contrary to the principles of the scientific community. He believes that the glory should bring a scientific publication, not public speeches. "If you write books for a wide audience, being a teacher assistant, it is unlikely you will be given a permanent professorship, because it is not serious, says Kahneman. In research universities such rule. You should do science before enrolling on a full-time position, and after quite a long time."

Daniel Gilbert (Daniel Gilbert), Professor of psychology at Harvard University and author of "Stumbling on happiness" (Stumbling on Happiness), agrees. "I started [to write for a mass audience] in 2000, when there was a full tenured Professor of Harvard, he says. I would not recommend it for young assistants and teachers without permanent positions."

Though unintentionally, but ultimately, this cautious policy — "wait for enrollment in the state of professors" — hitting on women and minorities, because they rarely occupy the higher academic positions. Probably partly due to the lack of representation, some scientists, people from minorities are under strong institutional pressure, encouraging them to communicate with the public — regardless of whether they have this tendency or not. "In essence, this is additional work, which, as expected, they have to do because of their origin (and not because of their desire to communicate with the public)," he wrote in his response Lusianna of Walkowitz (Lucianne Walkowicz), astronomer from Adler Planetarium in Chicago. "If you are well able to Express their thoughts and more or less decently stay in front of the camera, you will be invited to speak," says George. Marshall shepherd (J. Marshall Shepherd), African American program Manager for atmospheric research at the University of Georgia and host of the television program.

How jokes Rachel Berks (Raychelle Burks), assistant Professor of chemistry from St. Edward University in Austin, Texas, sometimes it seems that journalists find her writing in the search string in Google "minorities in science". "As a black girl, I'm all for equal opportunities, she says. But there is a difference: you are invited, because nobody better than you will not do the job, or need you as a symbol of equal opportunities, because someone said they need a color?"

Changing the foundations

Some answers to our questionnaire suggests that publicity of a scientist is not such a risk to his academic career, as before, and may even benefit. Today social media uses so many people that the transformation of the scientist in public figure hardly a surprise, not that first. In addition, the usual sources of financing do not become more generous, so the "publicity" sometimes opens a new, nonconventional cash flows for the financing of noteworthy projects. The explosive growth in the number of users of social networks that occurred in the past decade have revealed, however, a generational gap between "natives" digital technologies and older scientists. "People ask me: "Why are you killing time on Twitter?" says Chris Gunter's (Chris Gunter), Professor Medical school Emory University, known under the nickname @girlscientist. — However, in 2014, the journal Nature published my article that began the debate on Twitter".

However, our survey suggests that a lot of advanced knowledge institutions (such as Emory University or Massachusetts Institute of technology), in all probability, have begun to consider the promotion of scientific knowledge as an important field of academic activities — in addition to the traditional research, teaching and management. "During the interim assessment at Emory University I made it clear to the authorities what you do, says biologist-parasitologist, Jaap de Roode (Jaap de Roode). I was told that it was very good for me and for the University: therefore, the achievements become evident".

national science Foundation, the US officially supported the policy of popularization of science, taking the exceptional state funders position. In addition to the evaluation of the intellectual merits of the project, the Foundation when considering grant applications also applies the criterion of "massive influence" on society, including wide dissemination among the population of information on scientific discoveries. Scientific organizations, not seeking to interact with the audience and also scientists of the older generation would have to adhere to the same policy.

to Tell you about our discoveries wherever possible — the only way we scientists will be able to leave the ivory tower and to play a more important role in shaping the society we want to live — the society that gives meaning to the facts, encourages scientific research and continues to evolve.

Authors: Susana Martinez-Conde, Stephen Macknik and Devin Powell

Translation: V. V. Gogin

Source: the Magazine "world of science" 2016.12

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