Scientists and teachers take note – this is how to communicate science!

I’m making a pitstop back in scienceville today, in between a few political/social posts I’ve been writing.

ci-logo-black-large-text-3I chanced across this great blog called ‘Compound Interest – everyday exploration of chemical compounds‘ – take a look! Infographics abound aplenty. It’s a fantastic resource for chemistry teachers, and a great ‘how to’ example if you’re communicating science of any subject, to any audience. Some of their posts are more technical chemistry, while some are popular science that would be interesting to most. They have downloadable PDFs and posters for sale for a lot of the posts.

Effective communication is definitely one aspect of science that gets a little forgotten sometimes. What’s the point of finding something out if you can’t communicate it to others? For example, this post simply laying out the scientific method from I Fucking Love Science  is missing a step 7. 644518_482964478391235_1344225470_nAnd a step 8 (don’t get me wrong, I fucking love I Fucking Love Science, I think it does a lot to further knowledge of our world for the general public who didn’t study science at school or uni). I’m nitpicking, because I Fucking Love Science is about science communication to the masses, and so a simplified visual like this gets the point across. But right after step 6 “conclusion – experiments show my hypothesis was…”, should be step 7 with “submit research for peer review” and step 8 “communicate research – submit to a journal, make a press release, blog about it, etc”. The point being, that ‘step 8’ is really important, and people need to know how to do it effectively.

*edit: IFLS did another scientific method post just after the one I talk about above, which I like much better!

Compound Interest definitely shows how to communicate it effectively; here are a few good example posts:

For a comparison:

  • This is how all our chemistry teachers’ diagrams looked (click to go to the full-size image):
Image source: Mike Casey, University College Dublin

Image source: Make Casey, University College Dublin

  • This is how Compound Interest displays the same thing (click to go to the full-size image):

Which do you prefer?

Come to think of it, Compound Interest is actually a lot like The Oatmeal – sure, The Oatmeal is a lot more wordy and a lot less sciency, but the topics is does cover are presented extremely effectively using bold visuals interspersed with succinct text.

My favourites from The Oatmeal are the grammar posts (I may be biased since I teach English occasionally), which can be purchased as posters and I think should be on the wall of every English classroom across the world. Matthew Inman (author of The Oatmeal) is fairly eclectic in his writing- some of his other great posts cover:

So why am I not blogging using visuals?


5 thoughts on “Scientists and teachers take note – this is how to communicate science!

  1. Wow, flattered by the comparisons in this post – thanks for the kind words! As a teacher myself, it’s really rewarding to see the site being held up as a great example of science communication done right.

    • You’re more than welcome, your site is really impressive and deserves recognition!
      Do you mind me asking what program you use to make your visuals, and how long it takes you? I’m holding you up as an example of how to do things, but I’d actually have no idea of how to create striking infographics like yours, myself.

      • I use InDesign to make the graphics. How long it takes varies – the organic reaction maps took a fair while, due to moving things around to make it all fit in, whereas the food chemistry ones don’t tend to take as long as I use the same basic template for each. Usually I make about 2-3 a week.

        Although I’ve used InDesign, you could achieve something comparable using much more rudimentary software – something like Pages for Mac could also be utilised. Using good, readable fonts is also important – there are plenty of free fonts available online, which can often look a bit slicker than default fonts.

        There was mention of making a ‘how to’ post on making the infographics a while back – perhaps I should get round to that!

  2. Looking at the ‘Rough Guide to Spotting Bad Science’, No.12 Journals and Citations, the journals also ‘cherry-pick’ results by generally not publishing research with null results, and researchers are less likely to submit articles with null results. I just looked for a reference on this – these suggest that a statistically positive result article is three times more likely to be published.
    Dickersin, K.; Chan, S.; Chalmers, T. C.; et al. (1987). “Publication bias and clinical trials”. Controlled Clinical Trials 8 (4): 343–353. doi:10.1016/0197-2456(87)90155-3
    and Rosenthal R. The file drawer problem and tolerance for null results. Psycholog Bull. 1979;2:638–641.

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