Why is it more necessary than ever to engage the general public in science?

Science is not just meant for scientists. There are so many incredible advances in science and technology every year, but the vast majority of people don't get to hear about them. Of course there's also a lot that can be said about how scientists could do more to engage with the public, but I think it's important that everyone has access to this information. We're all curious about how our world works, and if we aren't able to get answers to these questions from official sources (for whatever reason), somebody else will fill the void with false or misleading stories. The last thing anyone needs is misinformation! And it seems like we've reached a point where the general population would rather read click-bait than gain insight into what makes the world an interesting and amazing place.

I'm not sure how to fix it, but I think that has to start with everyone just talking about the cool shit they learn. And not just science-politics too! More cool discoveries in neuroscience! More cool advancements in technology! What's happening in Washington today?! We all live on this planet together, so we should at least try our best to understand what happens here.

How does a scientist decide when and where to publish?

That is, if a scientist wants to get anything out there, what are some of the most powerful tools for getting word spread?

This is a really important question. When scientists write up their research for publication (in a journal or conference), they need to make choices about how much information they share. There are so many interesting things that can be said about almost any scientific discovery, but scientists have to present only the most important data. If they choose to share more (usually with their peers), it's usually through presentations at conferences or seminars. I actually think one way for this process to improve would be for journals and conferences alike to establish some kind of special designation for articles that are open access; if people can easily see what is being shared, then there's no need for sensationalizing anything (the distinction between "novel" and "significant" is sometimes blurred).

Since there's always more research than can be published in one sitting, scientists will often write up different results as separate manuscripts (or submit them to different journals). This behavior is normal, and it's important that everyone in the scientific community understands that if a discovery is just as significant as how much of a discovery is published. Scientists have many motivations for sharing their work with others, but publicly shaming scientists for not getting something to press ASAP isn't going to solve anything in the long run.

What would be your advice to students who are considering a career in science?

Science can be intimidating at first , but you get used to it. I'd advise students (and anyone else) to never stop asking questions about the world around them; if curiosity was an instinctual response like sneezing, we'd all do it more often! It may feel like there aren't enough hours in the day (or years in your life) to learn about everything, but it won't always feel that way. One of the best feelings is having an unanswered question and finally getting to the bottom of it.

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That being said, I also think that there shouldn't be too much pressure on people who are just starting out in science. Don't feel like you have to do what your adviser says (because that's not true for anyone else), don't worry if something isn't working out exactly as planned (you'll be surprised how often "failure" leads to better results), and don't assume anything will remain impossible forever (especially because so many things were considered impossible before they were discovered). Science is hard. It requires a lot of perseverance and patience, but the people who make it through are some of the strongest people I know.

 
 
 
 
 

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