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How science communication can happen anywhere


In an era where information is just a click away, we find ourselves overloaded with news about politics, sports, and the glitz of the Oscars. Yet, it seems that it takes a  global pandemic for science to gain the spotlight it deserves on our TVs and social media feeds. Is this happening because scientists do not effectively communicate with the public? It’s time to bring science out of the lab into the world.  


As a young scientist, I spent hours on train trips to reach the lab where I was  working, a routine often disrupted by train strikes across Portugal.


One train delay led to a chat with a stranger asking for directions, which quickly  turned into a conversation about autoimmune diseases. At that time, I was a  graduate student in biomedicine, and he was a young boy without higher  education but quite curious about what I did. I mentioned my research focus on  autoimmunity, and, to my surprise, he opened up about his battle against psoriasis. The train chaos was a chance for me to step into an unexpected territory: science  communication.


Science communication is a separate discipline, committed to raising awareness  of science-related topics and involving audiences that include, at least in part,  people from outside the scientific community. 

Few things excite scientists like discussing their work. I felt a sense of duty to share  my knowledge about his condition clearly without coming across as a mad  scientist and freighted him unnecessarily.


This brief interaction served as a reminder of the existing gap between scientific  knowledge and public understanding, particularly concerning health issues that  directly impact people’s lives. I was able to simplify complex concepts using  everyday language and analogies to convey my points, comparing the immune  system to a security force that defends our body and autoimmune diseases to  friendly fire where the body mistakenly attacks its own tissues. Making this “zoom out” and connecting the information to our surroundings helps engaging with the  public, and can also improve scientific writing and understanding of the real impact of scientific efforts on society. Most researchers are trained to do the science, publish their findings, and assume they will naturally reach a wide audience.  However,there still exists a gatekeeping and somewhat elitist attitude in the  science community which limit the access to the information.


In retrospect, I realize that this conversation had a deep impact on both of us; it  made me understand how crucial it is to communicate science effectively outside  of academia, and it empowered him to better understand and manage his disease.


Like Native Scientists, I committed myself to improving science communication  for a better-informed society and inspiring young pupils to explore STEM fields. To  achieve that, the first step is to make science accessible to everyone.


Making scientific communication an integral part of academic training from an  early stage would equip researchers with the skills to confidently share their work  with broader audiences, including the industry, policymakers, and the public.  Recently, the University of Luxembourg launched an open-access book with  several tips on science communication which aims to foster a culture of curiosity  and dialogue in the scientific community.


By developing collaborations with science communicators and educators,  scientists can feel inspired to take advantage of digital platforms and social media  to translate complex information into engaging and fun content.


Ultimately, efficient science dissemination is essential to promoting a scientifically  literate society, capable of making evidence-based decisions and combating  misinformation on several hot topics such as vaccines and climate change.


My experience showed me that we are scientists wherever we go, even without  our lab coats on. It’s in the everyday world, like on public transport, where we find  the opportunities to share our knowledge, especially with those who may benefit  from it the most. To do this effectively, we need to open both, our minds and lab  doors to everyone.

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