SCIENCE COMMUNICATION SUCKS

Viputheshwar Sitaraman
Founder, Blogger
Draw Science.


PROBLEM
"Was that even English?"
We've all been there after certain lab meetings. Especially in science, we often get wrapped up in the highly specific vocabulary of small areas of research and thus lose touch with the rest of the large and diverse scientific community. Sometimes, we need to step down the language and communicate simply. A researcher and pre-med student myself, I love throwing around the big words. But at the end of the day, I'm just wasting my words whilst my audience doesn't learn anything from what I've said.

SOLUTION
"Explain it to me like I'm five years old."
It's a simple and often used command, but it works like a charm. I admit: dumbing down science can be painful and annoying. However, reducing a seemingly complex and sophisticated biochemical problem to the reading level of a kindergartner often reveals the simple nature of the solution. Simple solutions to difficult problems thrive even today in company cultures like Google and Apple.  As Albert Einstein said, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it."

In my opinion, walls of text (like this one) are intimidating, and frankly boring to read. The concept behind "Draw Science" is straightforward:


Why sift through a long article, when 
I can read a picture book instead?

Essentially, the goal of this blog is to take complex scholarly articles and concepts and reduce them to infographics capable of being understood by laymen. To stick to this philosophy, I've developed a couple strategies:
  1. Trim it down: get rid of any terminology or information that isn't relevant to understanding the big picture. People who are interested in the fine details will go find those themselves.
  2. Word economy: complete sentences and unnecessary terminology are the foremost cause of 'paragraph obesity'. Budget words and use more pictures.
  3. Keep it schematic: As pretty as helices and plaits are, schematic diagrams are far easier to understand than 3D protein models. 
  4. Arrows: Science is a sequence. Scientists like flowcharts. I like pictures. Accordingly, use arrows to add motion and change into static diagrams.
  5. Stand-alone: The biggest difficulty of making an infographic is making sure that its concise but it can still stand alone.
With that being said, I leave a few concluding remarks. Science communication sucks...but, we can change that. No communication means no outreach, no outreach means no public support, no support means no funding. Simplicity, especially with pictures, is my way of improving science outreach: by making it understandable--or at least attractive. Nobody wants to read about 3-glycohydronitrahexasulfate (no that's not a real thing), UNLESS it can cure cancer. Presentation matters. The point of this blog is to be a kind of mediator between jargon-filled scholarly literature and the curious public.

Got an idea? Tell me.
But here's the catch. I'm a molecular biologist. That means I need help if you want me to make an infographic about quantum physics (or any other field outside my expertise). So here's how to do it:

  1. Find a scholarly article(s) to base the infographic on.
  2. Summarize the rationale and conclusions of the research
  3. Define 5 or less terms necessary to understand the research
  4. If you're fancy, make an infographic yourself--you will be attributed.
  5. Submit it through the form below.

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