Why Science Communication is Critical to the Future of Entomology

Tabatha Yang talking bugs

Tabatha Yang of the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California-Davis speaks with children touring the museum. (Photo credit: Kathy Keatley Garvey)

By Margaret Hardy, MSc, Ph.D., FRES

Recent efforts to bring science communication into the scholarship of the teaching and learning umbrella has met with some success. The emergence of commercially available platforms to measure the reach and impact of scholarly work has made altmetrics another reportable score, in addition to other quantifiable measures like citation numbers and h-index. Social media and blogging platforms have in-built metrics that allow content creators to measure the public response to their efforts, and these measures are becoming more relevant to employers in industry, government, nonprofit, and academic institutions.

Science communication as a means for the public to access information should be clearly framed as an ethical issue. As Shay-Akil McLean writes for RealScientists, “The responsibility then of the ethically guided scientist is to provide resources to marginalized communities to provide them with the necessary resources to generate dissent and better organize and coordinate their resistance.” If the past has not illustrated that “science is the pursuit of knowledge, knowledge is power, and power is politics,” then the present political climate confirms it. However, political doesn’t have to mean partisan, and scientists can—and should—work across geographic and political borders to ensure the public has access to accurate information and evidence-based interpretations of the data.

The public discussion of science can happen in many forms—a public dialog between scholars, an expert addressing a patient or stakeholder concern, or a scientist publicizing new results or a model that can be relevant to others in related fields—and that diversity is reflected in the new Science Communication Collection published in the September 2017 issue of Annals of the Entomological Society of America.

In this special collection, you can read about how to combat research isolation and fight bullying for bug-loving girls interested in STEM; or, learn how to engage the public with entomology comics and hashtag-ready museum exhibits. We also discuss some of the structural inequities that prevent traditionally underrepresented groups from being able to access higher education and careers in the natural sciences.

Visibility and representation are important in science communication and in our scholarship more broadly. As a white woman, my internal mantra is “Diversity is not white women.” We need to do better: hire and promote a more diverse workforce and give people who represent different ideas and pathways greater access to funding. The impact of Indigenous knowledge on our current work should be included in scholarly publications, and the traditional custodians of the land on which we work should be recognized for their many contributions. Remember when aiming to diversify your speakers or new hires that the beauty of the rich tapestry of human experience may not be skin deep, and the contributions of persons at the intersections of multiple traditionally underrepresented identities should be implicitly and explicitly valued.

Being able to effectively communicate about our work as entomologists can bring people together across boundaries. Keeping bugs is an inexpensive, low-maintenance entry ticket to the natural sciences, and interesting, equally valid observations can be made in urban and rural settings and everywhere in between. As a gateway discipline, entomologists can support students who have abilities in memorization and enjoy learning from a book; manual learners, who are the key to fieldwork and the finer points of dissection; and visual learners, who are the cornerstone of taxonomy, the foundation on which our discipline relies. And, throughout the process, we should emphasize excellence and find ways to apply scholarly rigor to science communication. As author Terry McGlynn says in his article, “Low quality work rarely reaches its intended audience.”

Editing a special collection for a journal is a delightful challenge, especially when it’s about a topic as central as science communication. As subject editor for the Annals Science Communication Collection, I am grateful to the authors for their insight; to the publishing staff for their assistance; and to the Entomological Society of America, for its forward-thinking leadership in this space. I’m also indebted to the readers of the journal articles and those who cite them, because in doing so you help continue the dialog and raise the profile of these impressive early- and mid-career researchers. Most of the authors are active on Twitter, so I encourage you to reach out to them and engage with them as public scholars, as well:

Annals of the Entomological Society of AmericaRead More

Special Collection: Science Communication

Annals of the Entomological Society of America

 

Margaret Hardy, MSc, Ph.D., FRES, is an entomologist, research scientist, and subject editor of the Science Communication Collection in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America. Twitter: @DrMaggieHardy. Email: margaret.hardy@uqconnect.edu.au

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: