“Feel free to get your pun on”: Creating a space for science communication
Authors: Brianne Morgan and Akacia Propst
For our residency project we developed a science blog titled “The Null Hypothesis.”
The idea for this project originated from an enthusiastic discussion in a shared hotel room with our colleague and co-creator Taylor Peacock during the 2019 annual meeting of the American Association of Biological Anthropology. We were discussing (i.e., complaining) how even though research with non-significant results is integral to the scientific process—providing building blocks for future research and preventing redundancy in the form of repeated research ventures—inflexible publishing standards make actually publishing these types of results difficult (verging on impossible). We all agreed that this was a problem. It is limiting for future research and hinders science communication. So, we came up with the idea to make a science blog that could be a space for researchers to share these types of results in a less formal and more approachable style.
Over the past couple of years our ideas for our science blog have evolved. This was especially during the COVID 19 pandemic, as misinformation and skepticism about the scientific process grew, and everyone suddenly became a live audience watching the results of ongoing real-time research develop. We felt it was increasingly important to create a space to highlight what research looks like behind the scenes—human, often messy, and rarely straightforward. From our own experiences and those of our peers, we knew that research is seldom as glamorous and direct as the media makes it seem. It can take many unexpected turns. In light of this, we shifted the focus of our website to provide a space where people could share their research stories and titled this section “Science Tales”.
The purpose of “Science Tales” is to create an approachable place to share what science looks like behind the scenes for both researchers and non-researchers. Through “Science Tales,” we also wanted to create a ready-made platform that researchers, especially graduate students, can use to participate in science communication. Good science communication involves sharing research results, methods, and motivations, which then helps to facilitate discussions around science-related topics, promotes scientific literacy, and captures public interest in science. It is an important part of working as a researcher, but opportunities to practice as a science communicator can be scarce. Public audiences don’t often get to see the process behind scientific research and new researchers often feel insecure or face imposter syndrome when their research projects almost inevitably hit bumps in the road. Therefore, our mission is to help demystify the scientific process, promote greater scientific literacy in public audiences, and create an open and safe space for researchers to share their stories and celebrate the sometimes wonderful, sometimes painful, and occasionally hilariously unexpected undertaking that is research.
For the final product of our residency, we have completed the “Science Tales” portion of our website and created functional submission portals for people to share their stories. We plan to make our website public in early 2022. We hope to get people across different fields to share their stories with us and create an open and supportive space to facilitate discussions between disciplines, public audiences, and researchers in industry or academia.
Inspired by the work of others in our residency, we decided we also wanted to offer multiple formats for people to share their research. So, we created an art gallery where people can share pictures or art related to their research. We also recognized that less approachable and discipline-specific science jargon is unavoidable at some points, so we have included a “Science Glossary” where people can submit plain language, or comical, definitions of terminology in their field of study.
In the future, we plan to continue to expand the website to include our original idea and create a space where researchers can share their research with non-significant results in an approachable blog format. We hope to inspire dialogue amongst researchers and the public that underlines the significant role of this research as an important step in the scientific process and to create a valuable repository of results that are currently difficult to access under current publishing standards.