They Won a Nobel for What? Why Good Science Communication Counts

Academy Award winner or 2014 Nobel Laureate in Medicine? © Nobel Media AB/Alexander Mahmoud

But I felt anxious, too, because my job – as a journalist with no science background – was to make sure those stories would be clear and comprehensible to any reader, and fascinating to more than a few. I wanted them to be stories that would make someone pick up the phone – this was back in the day when people did that – and say, “You’ve got to hear about this.” But journalists are just one leg of the sometimes shaky triangle of science communication, with scientists and the public carrying the other two sides.

Training scientists in the art of communication

These days, Nobel season is pure pleasure for me. I’m still a professional nonscientist, but now I work helping scientists learn to communicate better about their research and why it matters with people outside their field. Here at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, we teach graduate students and give workshops for hundreds of scientists around the US (including at least a couple of Nobel Prize winners, so far).

Young scientists at Stony Brook University are including communication courses in their training. Dan Levitan, CC BY-ND

And I know that in Nobel season, I will find plenty of examples of how hard it is to explain complicated science to people like me – and also how well it can be done. Some will tell us that neutrinos have mass long before they tell us what neutrinos are, or why we should care if they have mass or not. Others will paint a vivid picture of these mysterious elementary particles, which exist everywhere yet are almost impossible to detect. Some will fall back on dehydrated jargon. Others will tell us juicy stories about —> Read More