Why I Love to Talk About Science

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
May 20 2013 8:00 AM

SciFund Challenge: Why Do Science Outreach?

Kelly Weinersmith
An accurate representation of Kelly Weinersmith.

Illustration by Zach Weinersmith.

A little while back, I got an email from my friend Kelly Weinersmith, a biologist who has a bizarre attachment (ha! Haha!) to parasites. She is part of a group called the SciFund Challenge, and they are trying to increase and strengthen the connection between science and society, as well as raise money for scientific research.

Kelly contacted me because she was asking scientists who do outreach to make a short video answering some questions about how and why they do what they do. I’ve been outreaching (reaching out? Reach outing?) for a long time, and oddly enough I have some opinions about it. So I was happy to help her. I recorded it assuming I was talking to people considering doing outreach, but I suspect there are things in my short video readers of this blog will appreciate.

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SciFund Challenge has a lot more videos from other scientists, too. I’ve watched several, and it’s fascinating to see the different takes people have on the work they do. I apparently have cornered the market on smartassery.

I suspect this is all part of some long-term plan on Kelly’s part dealing with parasites that modify their hosts’ behavior. Maybe that’s why I was happy to help her… but in fact, the processes of science and science outreach really are more of a symbiosis. Each has their role, and each supports the other. Science needs to be done, and people need to know about that. I’m pretty pleased to be ensconced somewhere in that loop.

…and if the name Kelly Weinersmith is familiar, you may know her best for looking over the shoulder of her comic-drawing artist husband and glowering at him disapprovingly (hold your mouse over the red button; NSFW language). She’s good people, and it’s an honor to be a part of something on which she’s working.

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!