Science As a Media Event

One need not make any extensive surveys of different media to provide evidence for this failure. It is enough to see how sports has managed to gain more coverage in various media over the last few decades vis-a-vis science. One may argue that this is so because there are always some sports events occurring all over the world which naturally draw the attention of media. But contention here is that scientific activity, scientific community and laboratories all over the world can also be turned into what are called ‘media events’ if enough pains are taken by science communicators to achieve this status for science. First and foremost it will require the maximum cooperation of scientists.

For instance, anniversaries of scientists, institutes, organisations and societies, including the World Health Day, etc., can be celebrated; discussions and debates with the concerned scientists organised; and doors of concerned laboratories and organisations thrown open to masses and media. Be that as it may, intention through this paper is to highlight the essentials and limitations of science popularisation so that there appears a fundamental change in the way of looking at this subject. Hopefully, it will lead to more effective strategies to popularise science among the masses.

Science writing is an art

Science popularisation is mostly done by science- trained persons and professional scientists. It is therefore looked upon more as a scientific activity rather than anything else. But science writing is more of an art rather than a science. It is scientific only in the sense one should have scientific knowledge but all the writing abilities are required to make a good presentation of science. It is due to the present lack of emphasis on the art aspect of science popularisation that this field of activity has suffered to date. Those few scientists or science-trained persons who have consciously or unconsciously known the art of science writing and have practised it, have only been successful in popularising science.

Science is a human activity

The second reason why popular science does not tick with the masses is because it is not projected as a human activity but an activity of scientists who simply believe in the search for truth – and nothing but truth! The human side of science is totally neglected in all popular science presentations. The follies and prejudices of scientists, the emotional life of scientists, the irrational circumstances in which scientific work is often undertaken and discoveries and inventions made, etc., are quite often deliberately not highlighted fearing that it would give bad name to science and scientific research. In short, the human face of science or scientific research is often neglected in popular science presentations. There is therefore a strong need to give science a human face. It would not only mean adding human stories to popular science presentations but also talking about realities in scientific research.

Tip of the iceberg presentation

The third reason why popular science presentations often go wide off the mark and make the audience yawn and go for something else is the inability of science communicators to distinguish between technical report writing and popular science writing, thanks to their scientific training or background. They try to cram into a popular science presentation as much as they know or find out about a subject.

Actually, popular science presentation should be like the tip of the iceberg. It should however make one not only familiar with the tip of the iceberg but also aware of the unseen larger part of the iceberg floating under the water. In other words, it should reveal little about science but enough to make one realise the existence of that science with its entire ramification. It should excite one’s curiosity enough so that one would like to probe further into that science. It should not necessarily tell everything about a science but at the same time it should not miss science.

Some important observations

The author’s experience with popularising science over the years has forced him to arrive at some postulates. They are merely based on experience and intuition. Any research has not been conducted to back them up with facts and figures. In fact, much research is required to prove or disprove them. If in case they are proved, they can easily be called the ‘Laws of Science Popularisation’ because despite the best of our efforts we have not been able to popularise science the way we want among the masses.