The National Academy of Sciences Wants Me

… to write a guest post at the Science and Entertainment Exchange blog. So I did, on science communication:

I was asked to write a guest-blog post about “increased incentives for scientists to develop their communications skills.” I’m happy to oblige, but in typical ornery-blogger fashion, the first thing I want to do is take issue with the question’s phrasing. While it’s commonly believed that scientists lack communication skills, that’s very far from the truth.

It is almost impossible to be a successful scientist without also being a good communicator. Communicating results to other scientists, through conference talks and journal articles, is critical for scientific success. Additionally, most research funding is obtained through applications to granting agencies like the NSF or the NIH, and successful proposal writing is all about communication.

So, it’s simply not true that scientists lack communication skills in any absolute sense. Successful scientists, by and large, have excellent communication skills. The problem is that those skills have been developed for communication to a very specific audience: other scientists in the same field. The communication strategies that are most effective for scientists talking to other scientists are often not effective when communicating to the general public.

It goes on for a bit from there (actually, for half again as many words as they asked for), but you should click through to their site to read it. I’m pretty happy with how it came out, though the first commenter over there clearly doesn’t agree…

I’m closing comments to this post, to encourage commenting over there. And please remember to be polite: you’re visiting somebody else’s house.