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Truth is Hard to Sell, Science Included


The difficulty with “selling science” is rooted in basic human psychology. We humans are very good at categorizing things, and extremely good at shoehorning things into those categories.

Scientist observing cowpea leaf under microsco...

Scientist observing cowpea leaf under microscope in the laboratory (Photo credit: IITA Image Library)

A “side effect” of that ability is the desire to have things with definitive answers. Science cannot provide that, thus passing science along to people who make snap judgments about “right or wrong” is very difficult.

Further, people’s preconceptions and “first impressions” are frequently not conscious, thus when they’re brought to the forefront it’s a shock to their system and most handle it by withdrawing into a defensive posture.

Logic goes out the window when deep-seated emotions override our ability to think clearly. We’re all subject to it, some more than others, and each of us has our “hot spots” into which we will not travel. It’s all part of the human experience.

I would say, to pass along some sort of science to people, you have to understand where they’re coming from first and approach subjects subtly when necessary. Make them come to the question rather than hitting them over the head with it, ask what their reasoning is, and guide them rather than drag them to the appropriate path.

A side comment on names of degrees and their relationship to the field of study.

English: Thirty year old Tera holds a Bachelor...

English: Thirty year old Tera holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology and is of English / Thai ethnicity (selling science in new ways?!). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A B.Sc. is, correctly, a Bachelor of Science degree, and an M.Sc. is a Master’s of Science degree. While one could make the argument psychology is a science (a “soft” science, in many respects), I’ve heard nobody argue marketing is a science.

I have a Bachelor of Arts… in geology. Does that mean I didn’t study science? Nope… it only means my college decided their degree would be a BA. The name of the degree has little to do with the subject matter studied, both degrees are more-or-less interchangeable.

Science is more than something we name; it is a process of observation, prediction, experimentation, and back to the start. When there’s enough evidence to merge various predictions (hypotheses) into something with which (reasonably) accurate predictions can be made, that’s a theory. Theories are still subject to the original process and are always being updated.

Therefore one should not make a claim to be a scientistsimply because of a title; you have to do science to be a scientist. I have two degrees in sciences (and half of another), all inter-related, and have worked with scientists in all three fields (geology, biology, paleontology)… but I am no scientist. I understand how science works, and my thesis advisor agrees, but I’m no scientist as he is.

NASA Sunspot Number Predictions for Solar cycl...

NASA Sunspot Number Predictions for Solar cycle 23 and 24 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Discovered on LinkedIn by Richard Nelson

As an aside: Richard Nelson is a scientist by all means but continues to brand himself as a Science Communications Market Leader, difficult science to comprend but please continue to enjoy the results here on FreelanceScienceWriting.com

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About Richard Nelson

Freelance science writing all day and night. I'm an expert at writing, marketing, and publishing. Providing writing services nearly everyday, SEO rich articles about science and tech are my specialties. I also love to make money so I'm for hire as an independent communications expert and business consultant with specializations in project management, writing, science, and engineering. With a vast network of professionals in various fields backed by two degrees, 180 credits hours, 6 graduate courses and several awards and recommendations along the way, who could go wrong?

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