When I started doing research, I was motivated more by my own curiosity and learning about the unknown by running experiments. As I have gotten older, my happy place has shifted from the solitude of the lab to the space where what we do as scientists affects society at large. Scientists are first and foremost human beings too. Our human strengths and flaws shape our thinking, experimental approaches, and interpretations. An awareness of this human element is what makes impactful science because we can parse out prejudice, and bias in the pursuit of scientific truth.
During the pandemic, I sensed the deep suspicion with which non-scientists were regarding the information communicated by experts. I reflected on this often. There may be a fringe group that will not engage with scientists but most people are skeptical because the information is not accessible. Being an expert is about responsibility, not superiority. The excessive use of Jargon or hiding the uncertainty to make a more compelling scientific ‘story’ is objectionable. Humility in recognizing the limits of our individual thinking even if we are deemed ‘experts’ is necessary to continue learning.
Curiosity, skepticism, and critical thinking are all valuable human virtues, not to be dismissed because they are expressed by a ‘non-expert.’So these days I am thinking often about communicating science in an accessible way. Confronting my own prejudice, bias, and ignorance and sharing what I learn and continue to learn from others (scientists and non-scientists alike).