We need more Science Communicators
Communication is the key to getting a job well done and this exact area; many of us struggle with whether it is in our relationship goals, in our career progression or raising awareness. And to communicate in science, it’s something which is very much a novel concept in the world, let alone in Pakistan. Recently I had the honour to attend a conference organised by LUMS, in agricultural and forestry. It was very well organised and attendance was remarkable. I must admit it was a moment of smugness for me to roam around in an institute, looking for my conference hall and then sneak in a hall full of reputable professionals and students. The conference was all about the use of technology in order to deal with issues such as agriculture, food industry, aviation and health.
It’s an amazing prospect to see the development on such a level that is no less than anyone else in the world. I mean to say that the work in robotics which is expecting to solve issues of paralysed people, deforestation and navigating causes towards right direction and all that happening in a country that is consisting being hampered by many crippling concerns. It sure was an energy boosting experience for me, as a scientist and as a Pakistani.
All well and great but coming back to my thoughts on communicating one’s vision and ideas, is where we need to make another big push. Whilst attending the conference, I felt that the presentations lacked the enthusiasm and upbeat of an exciting work. Not due to work not being exhilarating but due to lack of communicational skills. And I see that everywhere in Pakistan. There is a huge gap in communicational skills in all sectors but more so in Science. We are still stuck in that stereotypical period of scientist being knowledgeable only but not being a good speaker. Many science students I have met and taught in Pakistan are suffering from this stereotypical image of a geeky scientist. They all are so intelligent in their work but when it comes to communicating their knowledge across, they struggle. It could be due to English being their second language, in that case they are doing marvellous to even get this far. But I have taught students who spoke English as their first language but still struggled to communicate their work across. So the language is not the barrier but it is the actual skill of communication that is hindering their work from being acknowledged at its true value.
There are many platforms that can be used to initiate communication skills being employed within science to get the job well done. And all the institutes must look into this. It’s absolutely paramount that our brilliant students are able to present their vision and progress on global platform through effective communicational skills. It’s also great to see social media is being used as an effective tool to communicate such progress and development but in my opinion it’s not being used as much as it should be. Our youth is becoming quite skilled in communicating their political views through social media pretty well and that I would also like to see amongst our young engineers and scientist.
The beginning of such conferences is an excellent start to working on our presentational skills that will only improve Science communication. Such conferences should also have a media space which must be occupied by our science students themselves. Initiative must be put in place to encourage student to outlay their work on various platforms and be prepared to interact with people from all sectors with utmost confidence. If we treat this as a matter of priority only then we will initiate such effort. I believe that it is as important as working hard labour of science which then must be communicated well to other bodies.
I am currently liaising with few friends to begin this as a module in every science degree, where young scientist are given guidance in how to talk about their work in a language that is being understood well by diverse section of professionals and public. I truly believe that we can do with many more Science communicators to take our research and development sector to next level which is no less than on par with rest of the world.
By Dr. Chand Zahid