Sunday, March 30, 2014

How scientists Communicate

Critique of the communication profession

In the field of communication, the transaction of important information is an integral part of society. As science is my chosen profession, I would like to demonstrate this profession also relies heavily on communication practice, for delivering important information.  

Information about the workings of the world falls under the profession of science. Scientists report implicit logical arguments through the use of mathematics, statistics and physical evidence (Manly, 1992, p.3) and therefore, have a unique way of communicating which is abstract from mainstream society and traditional literature (Dawson et al, 2010,p.1). Literature often contains jargon and complex mathematical equations and often does not adhere to a broader range of audience (Knight, 2006). Occasionally, scientific concern requires broad range perception.  Hence, as I am science student and a communications student, I can understand that this written communication style is likely to become lost in translation, if not properly transcribed. For instance, a road repairman probably would not know that the critical issue between long wave radiation and depletion of the allotrope: ozone; is just another way of discussing chemical reactions that cause a hole in the ozone layer. In this instance, the ineffective communication path results in scientists failing to convey a message of critical importance. Only a clear message is effective through communication channels to reach all audience (Written communications that inform and influence, 2006, p.54).  So, complex scientific jargon creates a barrier and the message is misunderstood. The result: the road repairman likely did not get the critical message about climate change. 

In public understanding it is not the how of information that is critical; it is the way this information is transferred that creates a clear communication path.  Knight (2006,p.2), suggests, scientists can both send a message, still tell a story; all without the use of complexities. Therefore, general society would not need to understand the complexity of science to interpret the broader perspective.
Scientific literature is put into context in a scientific report. The format forms the basis for all scientific fields and includes: a title, an abstract (summary), aims, introduction, methods, results (findings) discussion and conclusion (Dawson et al, 2010,p.88).  Scientific reports do not serve a purpose in the public eye. Information is compiled, analysed and reviewed dictating complex concise information. Reports in science assist with studies being repeated by fellow scientists, without bias (Manly, 1992.p.3). As it is generally accepted, communication is a learned practice in society (West & Turner, 2010,p.83) and scientists learn to communicate effectively among each other for the purpose of expanding knowledge for an internal profession.

Therefore, I am now able to perceive that unique communication within science is both important and necessary because it allows complexities to be explained in critical detail helping scientists to work together.  It is how this information is conveyed within science that is most important- not the pathway that can, and, then allow for later broader public understanding. For example, a biologist does not have a universal name for all bacteria; the name ‘bacteria’, is not enough information for the ecologist a colleague, to conduct a study on chemical reactions in prokaryote bacteria communities. The biologist must conduct a study in a concise and highly detailed manor (with jargon), so that the associate ecologist can then repeat the study and add to the findings on this complex topic.

Manly, B. F. (1992). The Design and Analysis of Research Studies. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Dawson,M,M., Dawson,B,A.., and Overfield, J,A., (2010), Communication Skills for the Biosciences.Wiley-Blackwell publishing, United Kingdom
Knight, D. (2006). Public understanding of science: A history of communicating scientific ideas (1st ed.). USA and Canada: Taylor & Francis e-library.

(2006). Written communications that inform and influence. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press. 

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