My priorities are learning and travelling. For me, studying science is a fantastic way to channel these activities toward a tangible goal. As a Ph.D. student, I use every excuse to see different parts of the world and I’m inevitably exposed to cool and fascinating systems that just have to be shared.
I began my Bachelor’s degree in biochemistry in 2009, and I’ve stayed in science ever since. Doing research is a lot like solving a series of puzzles no one has solved before, which continues to be an incredibly stimulating experience. After starting my Ph.D. in 2014, something I’ve become increasingly aware of is the communication divide between scientists and the public. I believe it is a scientist’s responsibility to effectively communicate their work to the broader audience, not only because a large portion of the research is funded by them, but also because better awareness and understanding of the outcomes of our work is essential if the research is going to bring about meaningful change in society. I think one of the first steps to doing this is to improve information accessibility.
Research is isolated from the public by two barriers: the high cost of article subscriptions and articles that are incomprehensible without a huge body of prior knowledge. Together, this creates an environment of economic and intellectual inaccessibility. Traditionally, research articles have been published behind the walls of expensive journal subscriptions, meaning that the very people who help fund the research also have to pay to access to the resulting data and interpretations. A subscription to Nature, for example, costs $199 (CAD) per year. There is an ongoing movement toward open access journal articles, which is encouraging, but it is only one side of the problem.
The other side is that even with access to journals, the articles they contain are not very reader-friendly. I, like many scientists, tend to automatically assume a lot of prior knowledge when communicating with someone about my research – biologist or lay person alike. This is something that has to change if we want our work to be truly understood, but it takes practice and training.
I have started this blog to practice communicating science to broader audiences. This is a work-in-progress, and I predict that some articles will hit their mark and others may fall into the usual traps of jargon and verbal gymnastics. I hope only that my readers learn something interesting and that I become a better writer along the way. I am happy to take any questions or feedback you may have, because after all, the best communication is not a lecture, but an exchange.