Science Communication 101 With Asian Scientist’s Editor-In-Chief

There are many benefits of communicating science to the public, according to Juliana Chan, editor-in-chief of Asian Scientist Magazine.

AsianScientist (Aug. 4, 2016) – Sir Mark Walport, the UK government’s chief scientific advisor, once said that “science is not finished until it’s communicated.” This sentiment is shared by Dr. Juliana Chan, the editor-in-chief of Asian Scientist Magazine and assistant professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

On Wednesday, Chan gave a science communications masterclass as part of the one-north Festival held in Singapore. Attended by scientists, students, educators and the general public, the Festival seeks to celebrate research and innovation in Singapore through forums, talks and lab tours.

Chan’s talk centered around a how-to guide and practical tips for better science writing, while also briefly touching on business models and career opportunities in the science communications industry. She also presented a list of 15 common mistakes in science writing—the infamous and divisive Oxford comma even made an appearance.

In particular, she emphasized heavily on the importance of communicating science to a general audience—a responsibility shared by science communicators and researchers alike.

“The degree of communication can be decided by yourself,” she commented, adding that a tweet here or an article there is more than sufficient for busy researchers.

Chan pointed out that public grants, while disseminated by government agencies such as Singapore’s National Research Foundation, are essentially paid for by taxpayers; that is, our family and friends. Thus, there is a need for scientists to return the favor, or ‘pay back,’ to society.

“In some form or another, the taxpayers hope to gain something out of their tax contributions,” Chan said. “From applied scientists, taxpayers may eventually get a wearable device or a new drug that could benefit them.”

Basic scientists, for their part, could provide information on complex topics that the layperson could be struggling with, Chan noted.

Attendees of the science communications masterclass conducted by Chan
Attendees of the science communications masterclass conducted by Chan.

Good science communications can also help to shape public attitudes around hot-button topics such as climate change, genetically-modified food and gene editing, said Chan—topics that may cause worry or concern to members of the public.

“It is almost our obligation to educate them, to explain why they should not be afraid of these new technologies, and encourage them to extend their support,” Chan said. “In some ways, it may lead to increased public support for research funding.”

Importantly, good science communications can help scientists reach other scientists across the globe, who may not be privy to the latest happenings in other research fields, she said. A well-written science article can also provide greater understanding of a research field that one may be unfamiliar with. By engaging the right channels, Chan noted, new opportunities for collaborations may appear.

“It helps to be visible. It will help you with grants, promotions, tenure and getting your papers published.”

Asian Scientist Magazine is a media partner of the one-north Festival. A second science communications masterclass will take place today, August 4, 2016, from 2-3:30 PM at the Fusionopolis research hub in Singapore.


Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Coming from a design background, Filzah brings a fresh perspective to science communications. She is particularly interested in healthcare and technology.

Related Stories from Asian Scientist