Science communication: Our daily challenge

We live in a world where the access to information is at a click of distance. Almost any doubt can be solved with your Smartphone if you have good internet connection. This exponential growth in the way we communicate leads us to share knowledge much faster but at the same time we neglect its quality. But with that amount of information circulating on the web, who validates its content? As users we need to be able to identify whether a source of information is reliable or not, but not everyone has the tools or experience to do so.

This year we have witnessed the spread of fake news faster than real news in the context of the pandemic. We all know that this problem is not new and similar examples were found announcing the cure of various diseases such as Alzheimer’s or cancer and proclaiming that the earth was flat. Anonymity behind advertisements or publications on the Internet is critical in this regard.

As part of the scientific community, it is our duty to guarantee access to reliable knowledge at all levels. In my opinion there’s a huge gap between scientific knowledge and the way it reaches the society. Part of our commitment should be to create tools to make this information more accessible to everyone.

The FoodSmartphone project gave me the possibility to share my research project and experience as PhD student in the field of food-safety over completely different contexts. On one hand, taking part in a scientific day at a high school in Argentina as well as at the young researchers night in Barcelona for an audience of non experts.  The most interesting and challenging part behind these kind of activities is that they lead us to leave the concepts we have learned for a moment in order to be able to explain very complex processes in a clear and simple way. Finally a feeling of satisfaction arises when you receive feedback from the audience demonstrating interest for what you do and offering their own perspectives.

Presentation of the FoodSmartphone project and research line to a high school class in Argentina

As an example, i remember when my principal investigator introduced me to her 8 year old nephew who was visiting our lab, and asked me “how would you explain your research project to an 8 year old child?” To be honest, that took me a bit by surprise and I guess that my face said more than I did. The first thing that came to my mind was to start with familiar things that he could associate with the project like in my case the cows, milk and the smartphone and then i managed to tell a story avoiding words like Surface Plasmon Resonance, Multiplexation or DNA directed immobilization. In the end, it wasn’t that bad and he was curious about the use of smartphone. And the lesson after this experience was that sometimes is more challenging to face the process of re-adaptation of concepts that you have learned from one context to apply them in a completely different environment without losing information

Part of these problems arises from the lack of expertise and training in communication skills. We learn to write and communicate with our partners, but at some point we forget that the final beneficiaries are the members of society, and this includes our family, friends, politicians, etc. Due to this, if they are not able to understand what we are doing, science will continue not being a priority for a considerable group of people.

All best and stay safe,

Julian

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