Asked by Anonymous
Kick down the door and shout “I’M HERE.”
Generally, things you do not actually need to get into science communication:
- a PhD
- a degree in science communication
- journalism credentials
Things you need to get into science communication:
- scientific background (can be self-acquired to quite an extent; most scientists do the bulk of their learning after undergrad anyway)
- communication skills (can be improved/learned/acquired/faked, but only bother doing sci comm if you actually like doing it)
- a wee droplet of charisma
- a personality that takes rejection and either goes “eh, I can work on this/with this” or “fine, then I’ll build a doomsday machine and you’ll be sorry”
- ability to find and reach your audience
The moxie/charisma thing is because you have to put it out there. It’s just like writing a novel, or performing any other writing. You can’t sit on your butt, going “Ugh, I’m good at science and communication, but nobody has kicked down my door offering me stuff and a TV deal.” You have to go up to people, your heart in your throat, and say “Give me stuff! Pay attention to me.” You have to enter science writing contests. You have to put stuff on the internet. You have to be okay with people hating it. This is seriously difficult, and if you don’t think you’d like it, you’ll have to work out a way to make scicomm work for you.
I am really lucky in that I live in a place and time where standup science comedy is a thing, so one prong of my scicomm life is how I got into that. First I asked a friend to include me in her act; then I discovered that I loved doing it; then I became an organizer. I’m not sure how; I think it’s because I just kept showing up until it would have been weird to get rid of me.
I just did a lovely set last night at a packed gig. It’s always amazing to see People Whom You Know From The Internet laughing in person, because they think you’re funny and great and worth seeing. It’s always great when people come up to you at intermissions and tell you that you’re inspiring. It’s great when a scientist in a particular field tells you “YOU GET MY FIELD!!”
I don’t have a PhD. I don’t have permission. I have stood in the hallowed halls of the Royal Society where I was invited to talk gibberish about gene regulation and swear like a motherfucker, and I did just that. I have sassed the science editor of the Guardian and deeply confused Robin Ince. I am not really getting paid for this, but sometimes people tell me that they like my work.
Break into science communication the same way that people like us have to break into anything: with a hammer and a terrifying warcry, ready to kick a hole in the fabric of reality to get to where we need to be.
Just cross out the words “science communication” and fill in any career field you want.
secret government agent: tell me right now, do aliens smoke weed
mulder: [tied to a chair in a dark room] i wont ever tell you this
secret government agent: *punches mulder in the face* what kind of weed do aliens smoke
mulder: *spits blood on the agent*
secret government agent: where can i buy this dank ass space weed
mulder: fuck you
i need ferguson to go down in history books. i need school children in the year 2074 to learn about michael brown being shot on august 9th, 2014 by officer darren wilson. i need this to spark a movement. this can not lose the focus of society a mere month after it happened.