These are turbulent times to be a researcher. Research funding is being cut off, the number of retracted papers annually is increasing alarmingly each year, fewer and fewer students are opting for a science career and to top it all off: the distrust of the general public in researchers is at an all time low. A quick idea of the level of trust the people have in scientists can be gauges by looking at the uncertainty in global warming. This level of trust in scientists is only going to worsen if researchers and science communicators do not take the appropriate measures to communicate their efforts to the general public.
Research and science communicators can learn a lot from story writers at Pixar who have condensed the art of touching the hearts into twenty two rules. These are general storytelling rules that can be applied by researchers too.
The first and the most important rule is, “You admire a character for TRYING more than for their success”. The image of researchers needs a makeover and this is only possible if researchers open up all their attempts/failures at advancing the human knowledge. More experiments lead to no results that the few which do. The gap between researchers and the general public is growing and the closed nature of scientific papers isn’t helping. The move towards open access is a welcome move, but this needs to be accompanied with the accompanying databases and most importantly the futile attempts behind these papers. This is the story that the people are more eager to hear than what you have accomplished in the brief 10 page pdf document filled with scientific jargon.
We at Journal of Errology seek to create a medium for researchers to share the complete story behind their papers, the story of their struggles, their frustrations, iterations, their shortcomings, the moment they saw the light at the end of the tunnel and finally their accomplishments. All these are essential to improve their image as someone who is sacrificing a high paying job and a good life to find cures, eradicate hunger, help the disabled grown new limbs, create organs in laboratories, etc. The same is true for large multinational pharmaceutical companies, who are used to mercilessly shutting down departments and their years of work on account of a predicted decline in their profits.
Crowdfunding is being seen as the future of science funding, however for this to work the public needs to gain their trust back in researchers. For this researchers need to increasingly handle the role of science communicators and open up the part of their research that usually ends up decaying in lab notebooks.
Image Source: PBJPublishing