PhD Café

PhDcaféScientific community is well aware of the importance of divulgation in society for human progress, and many scientists, all over the world, are committed to spread science trhough conferences, television, social network and so on. Great public attention, for example, was recently given to the wonderful results of ESA and NASA with Rosetta and New Horizon projects.

Despite all these efforts and encouraging results, however, looks like Science is struggling in communicating the scientific “forma mentis”. A critical approach and common sense. Since the publication of the  “The Sceptical Chymist” of Boyle, we would  expect a society less superstitious, more equal and definetely more engaged. We are a technological society but not yet scientific, this is a fact.

To overcome this problem will not be easy and multiple strategies must be applied. However I see a main way to follow, which is: We need to make Science POP. Simply popular! We speak and do a lot, in the scientific community,on how to promote Science between youngs and women, but we  speak less about how to improve our imagine on the public eyes. Let’s just think at how many villains, in comics series and movies, have an academic title: Dr. Doom, Dr Octopus, Dr. Claw, Dr. Evil and so on… Even in classic literature, our reputation doesn’t go better, just think to Dr. Jeckyll and Dr. Frankenstein.  Excellents minds, basically good… but totally deconnected from Society! Unable to distiguish good from evil, because too busy in their specific and complicated studies.

We know this is not true! We know that generally  Scientists are well open to Society and live in Society, taking care of the others and following many other passions. We know that Science is funny, that we are curious, that we are not emotionless but full of enthusiasm. How to communicate this to people? How to make Science Pop?

One main issue is language… I already wrote about this in a post called “Why Science shouldn’t speak only English and why native english speakers should care about it“. I’ll repeat again: I don’t mean we should stop writing articles in english!! I just mean we should start to divulgate Science in all the possible languages we know! Divulgation in Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, Chinese, Ostrogoths…  When all the languages of the planet will lose the scientific vocabulary, it will be difficult to make Science popular!

The other issue is the subject who leads the message! A young inspired scientist, like a PhD student, is the most enthusiast about his research. He/She is much more connected to the world of youngs and easily taken as an example to follow. There are PhD students of all nationalities, all over the world, and we have the most powerful tool of mass-communication of all the time.

A youtube video, where in an guided interview, PhD students explain their research, in any language (with subtitles also).  Through successive simplification, deconstruct their research until the minimal comprehensible terms by everybody. To then rebuild all the meaning and understand the impact on society of their work.

Imagine now a common hashtag for that, like #PhDcafe, becoming viral on the web, with hundreds of interviews structurated in this way. From any part of the world, in any languages! It could even become the beginning of a community. Everybody could use the hashtag, with the only restriction of course, to respect scientific ethic and integrity.

So, here the Episode-0 of this PhD café, where I interview a French PhD-student. The video start with an introduction in Italian to explain the principle and it continues in English with subtitle in Italian. This video is addressed to an italian audience, because italian is my mother tongue. But if you want to do the same in Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, Chinese, Ostrogoths… etc. Just DO IT and use the hashtag #PhDcafe

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